Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Thursday he hopes to attend this summer’s Olympic Games in London but that the British authorities were reluctant to allow him, state media reported.
“I would like to be beside the Iranian athletes at the Olympic Games in London to support them, but (the British) have issues with my presence,” Ahmadinejad said, without offering further explanation.
“The enemies do not want our athletes to win medals, but our young people shall be present at the Olympic Games and, like Arash, give new reasons to take pride in Islamic Iran,” he said, quoted by the official news agency IRNA.
In London, Junior Foreign Office Minister Henry Bellingham said invitations to the Olympic Games were issued by countries’ sports officials.
Answering a written parliamentary question, he said: “Heads of State and Government are invited to attend the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games by their national Olympic and Paralympic committees.
“It is not yet clear which Heads of State and Government will attend and we do not expect to have this information until closer to the Games.”
Meanwhile, spokesmen for both the Foreign Office and Home Office in London declined to discuss “individual cases” but a government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ahmadinejad was not subject to any official travel ban by Britain.
Relations between Tehran and London are at an all-time low.
London closed its embassy in Tehran after a rampage of the building by Islamist students in November 2011.
Britain was one of the first European countries to adopt sanctions against the Iranian Central Bank to put pressure on the Islamic republic for its disputed nuclear programme.
And in February 2011, Iran protested to the International Olympic Committee against the official logo of the 2012 Olympics, claiming it was “racist”, an accusation the London Organising Committee described as “surprising”.
According to Tehran, one could read the word “Zion” in the logo. The organisers defended the logo, saying it was “modern, bold and flexible” and could able to appeal to a younger audience.
Ahmadinejad has repeatedly stated in recent years that Israel will one day be “wiped off the map” and cast doubt on the magnitude or actual occurrence of the Holocaust.
Arash is a mythical hero of ancient Persia.
According to legend, he was instructed to shoot an arrow that would determine the country’s border. He exerted all his strength to shoot the arrow a great distance, but was destroyed in the process.