Iraqi officials praised their countrymen participating in the 2012 London Olympics, describing it as a great incentive to promote sports, strengthen Iraqi unity and improve the nation's sports programmes at the regional and international level.
"Iraq's participation this year is considered exceptional, with a different flair than previous years, with the participation of eight players, including four girls," said Bashar Mustafa, vice president of Iraq's National Olympic Committee.
"This participation strengthened Iraqi unity around their country more than anything else, such as politics or the economy, since all the participants enjoyed wide popular support," he told Mawtani.
Mustafa added that future participation in the Olympic Games "will be larger and more varied, and Iraq's participation this year can be regarded as preparation for larger presence in the future".
Eight Iraqi athletes participated in seven events at the London Olympics, including shooter Noor Amer, archer Rand Saad, track and field athletes Adnan Tuais and Dana Hussein, weightlifter Safa Rashed, swimmer Muhannad Ahmad, wrestler Ali Nadhim and boxer Ahmed Abdulkareem.
None of the Iraqi athletes qualified for the finals.
Government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh also commended Iraq's Olympians and told Mawtani that the government is determined to achieve greater sports accomplishments in the future.
"The government decided to form a higher committee to look into all the problems and overcome the obstacles that hinder the progress of sports in Iraq," he said.
Al-Dabbagh added that the committee will discuss the possibility of "building new sports facilities and granting Iraqi athletes monthly salaries, to help them dedicate their time to training in order to achieve higher and better results in the future".
"The circumstances that swept Iraq and the looting, destruction and bombings that targeted sports facilities, as well as the indiscriminate killing of Iraqi athletes, made sports slide into a state of decline that must be stopped," he said.
Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports spokesperson Asifa Musa said her ministry has also taken steps to strengthen sports infrastructure in Iraq.
She confirmed that the ministry is planning to build "five Olympic-size stadiums in Iraq to develop the state of sports in the country in preparation for international events to come".
The new 30,000-seat stadiums will be built in Salah al-Din, Diwaniya, Nasseriya, Diyala and Samawa, and will be attached to hotels, administrative wings and special training fields for various sports, Musa told Mawtani.
She added that these plans -- the largest of their kind in Iraq -- are crucial to developing Iraqi athletic programs, especially Olympic sports.
She said the ministry sent invitations to 19 companies from Turkey, Cyprus, the UAE, Germany and some European countries to submit offers for these projects as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Batool Ali, director of school sports at Iraq's Education Ministry, told Mawtani that her ministry seeks to encourage youths to participate in sports competitions by reviving sports activities at Iraqi schools.
"The ministry has decided to make physical education a primary class in all Iraqi schools following the waning interest in school sports due to the [past] security situation in the country", she said.
"The coming academic year will include sports classes in schools and the return of inter-city, inter-province sports championships, which were halted as a result of terrorist attacks which negatively impacted the discovery and development of young talent," Ali said.
Al-Naft football club coach Nadhim Shaker told Mawtani that Iraqi athletes are positively progressing, especially considering the country's recent history.
"Although the results achieved in London were modest in comparison, they were very good considering the situation in Iraq and compared to other participating countries," he said.
"Iraq's participation this year can be considered a first step towards wider participation [in future years]," Shaker said.
"More importantly, it was a message to the terrorists who wanted to erase Iraq’s name from the world’s global forums, saying that all Iraqis are determined to continue the march of progress in all fields," he told Mawtani.
Iraq's bodybuilding team coach Hassan Abbas said, "Most athletes taking part in the London Olympics are formidable, have solid experiences and enjoy mental, psychological and physical stability, compared to our athletes, who invariably went through difficult times."
"Therefore, we consider the results achieved by our athletes excellent, and pledge to have better results in the future. We shall be a difficult team to beat faced with well-known international teams," he said.