- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 5, 2002

LONDON Saddam Hussein appears to be preparing a bid to be host of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The Iraqi president already has invited bids for construction of a 100,000-seat Olympic stadium, which documents show is to serve as the foundation for a 300-acre Olympic Sports City in Baghdad.

A company based in Jordan has been soliciting the bids from international contracting groups on behalf of the Iraqi Ministry of Education, which is in charge of the project.

"There will be many contractors bidding, but I can't tell you now how many yet," said a source at the Jordan-based company. Most of the bids are coming from European companies.

As far as the modern-day Olympics go, Iraq is considered somewhat of a lightweight.

It sent one athlete, a wrestler, to the 1996 Centennial Games in Atlanta, but he went home empty-handed.

The Iraqi soccer team competed in Sydney in 2000. But after a 2-2 tie with Saudi Arabia in the second round, the Saudis advanced, not Iraq.

In the Sydney Paralympics, a competition for handicapped athletes that follows the Olympics, some Iraqi weight lifters were disqualified for using steroids.

In all, Iraq has won one medal, a bronze in weight lifting at the 1960 Games in Rome.

Iraq does have a National Olympic Committee, although no one there could be reached for comment.

A link on the official Olympic Web site (www.olympics.org) says the committee is headed by Saddam's son, Oday.

Oday is infamous for unleashing violent rages against Iraq's forlorn national soccer team.

When the Iraqi team returned to Iraq after being eliminated from the 2000 Asian Cup, Oday imprisoned three players.

He once had the entire team whipped on the feet after it lost a World Cup qualifying match.

British industry sources confirmed that several companies have been making inquiries about how to enter bids.

The British Consultants Bureau confirmed that it has received "a couple" of queries from major contractors.

The specifications for the two-tier stadium say it should be built according to British standards and comply with regulations of international sports federations governing soccer, and track and field.

Bids to build the Iraqi sports complex were due Feb. 20, but the Jordanian source said the response was so overwhelming that bids from latecomers still might be considered.

Saddam's viewing comfort is paramount, the documents say:

"The seats are to be made of plastic, but the seats of the VIP platform and the first-class seats should be of very good quality.

"The special position for the VIP seats must be separated from other parts by transparent partitions."

The design must "reflect Iraqi architecture in different stages of history."

British standards are specified for the reinforced concrete superstructure, fire prevention, electrical systems and sanitary equipment.

The specifications state: "The construction of this stadium shall be the base for the future development of an Olympic Sports City in Baghdad."

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