Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he wants to attend the 2012 Summer Olympics in London but that the U.K. has a problem with him, The Guardian of London reported.
“I would like to go,” Ahmadinejad told athletes at the Azadi sports complex in Tehran, according to the Guardian. “But unfortunately they have a problem with my presence. Otherwise I would have liked to have participated in the Olympics, and to have applauded our dear youth."
The British have not banned him from attending; rather, Iran’s state media said, Ahmadinejad may not want to be fingerprinted for a visa, viewing it as humiliating. In addition, the relationship between Iran and the U.K. has been fraught: Last year, the British closed Iran’s embassy in London, telling its staff to leave within 48 hours, according to Sky.com.
But unlike some other controversial leaders, the European Union has not banned him from traveling throughout Europe. Among those banned from traveling European Union countries, and therefore who won’t be allowed to attend the Games, according to the Guardian, are Bashar al-Assad of Syria, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus. Assad and his wife were added to the EU travel ban in March, the BBC reported.
Ahmadinejad’s announcement may be welcome news to British officials facing pressure from human rights groups to ban certain leaders from the London Games, but other controversial heads of state say they’re coming regardless of their reputation. This creates what the Guardian calls a public relations headache for Prime Minister David Cameron.
The list of leaders planning to attend has not been released.
In total, 120 leaders have said they will attend the opening ceremony on July 27; 87 attended the Beijing Games in 2008.
Denis MacShane, a British Member of Parliament, suggested to the Guardian that perhaps actor Sasha Baron Cohen, known for his deadpan imitations of dictators, could stand in for them all. Baron Cohen “could wear a nice uniform, lots of medals, a beard, and carry on his private torture case," MacShane said.
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