DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday he was keen to attend the 2012 London Olympics to support his country’s athletes but that the British authorities had “problems” with hosting him, the official IRNA news agency said.
Iran said last year it might boycott the London Olympics because it believed the event’s logo, which depicts the year 2012 with four jagged multi-coloured figures, resembled the word Zion and was therefore “racist”. Zion is a term that refers to the city of Jerusalem and Iran does not recognise Israel.
But Ahmadinejad appears to have had a dramatic change of heart, though it was unclear whether he had made an official request to attend the games.
“I would like to be among Iranian athletes in the 2012 London Olympics to support them but they (the host country) have problems with that,” IRNA quoted him as saying.
Relations between Iran and Britain remain strained over Tehran’s refusal to open up its nuclear programme to international oversight and its failure to allay Western fears that it is seeking to develop a nuclear weapons capability.
Tehran denies it has any such intentions.
Protesters attacked the British embassy in Tehran last year, prompting Britain to retaliate in November by shutting Iran’s embassy in London and expelling its staff.
Britain accused the Iranian authorities of sanctioning the storming of the British mission after London imposed sanctions on the country’s central bank.
The crisis was the worst between Britain and Iran since full diplomatic relations were restored in 1999, 10 years after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s fatwa which declared that author Salman Rushdie should be killed for writing “The Satanic Verses”.
About 50 Iranian athletes have qualified to take part in the Olympics so far, Iranian media have reported.
(Writing by Zahra Hosseinian; Editing by Andrew Osborn)