He is being hailed as a national hero by the Iraqi people. After almost single-handedly rebuilding the sports network in the war-ravaged nation, he has been credited with ensuring that Iraq fielded a 25-strong team for this year's Olympic Games. And the man who is at the centre of the praise was born in Scotland. Mark Clark, a 30-year-old Edinburgh lawyer, is now Iraq's team manager and even helped the country's Olympic committee draft its constitution when the International Olympic Committee lifted a suspension in February on the country taking part in world athletics events.
Maurice "Termite" Watkins, Iraq's boxing coach, and Najah Ali, the country's only boxer, said Mr Clark was a national hero. "You've got a hero in Mark Clark," said Mr Watkins, from Houston, Texas. "He has done more for sport in Iraq than anybody. We would not be here at the Olympics but for him. He is an unsung hero."
It was because of the Iraq war that Mr Clark ended up in the country. He had given up his job with Dundas & Wilson, an Edinburgh law firm to take up his posting in Iraq as a Territorial Army reserve officer. Last July, he began working with the coalition provisional authority, the temporary governing agency in Iraq. But with a degree in intellectual property and sport-related law, Mr Clark was invited to take on the role of adviser to the CPA on sport. Educated at Edinburgh Academy and Glenalmond, then at Edinburgh University, Mr Clark admitted he had had "a few hairy moments" since then. Pressed, he said he had been shot at by "small arms and rifle fire, rocket-propelled grenades. We were in the Al Rashid Hotel in Baghdad when it was hit. I've been mortared and RPG'd thousands of times, rocks through the windscreen – normal everyday stuff . . . I am from a military family, so they know the background."
Mr Clark added that, after the June 28 "handover" of power to the interim government of Iraq, he was faced with a problem. "I'd the choice of going back to D&W, and a legal career, or staying on. So I am now working with the National Olympic Committee of Iraq, but I'm not just restricted to elite sport and Olympic sport – it's about all 41 sports bodies in Iraq. There are now 214 sports clubs."
Mr Clark has headed a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for sport in Iraq. When the country was run by Saddam Hussein, his son Uday ran the country's NOC. Many athletes were tortured by Uday when their performance did not match his expections. Under Uday, the whole structure broke down. Mr Clark said: "When Uday took over Olympic sport, he took over a very good sports club network and used his position as a vehicle for extortion and revenue for his own purposes. There was physical torture, detention, and rape of female sports competitors."
Mr Clark said it is a "good news story" for the war-ravaged country. "It's one of the things that draws people together, no matter what their background. It's a very important tool for regenerating the country."
The Edinburgh man, whose parents now live in Stirlingshire, was responsible for overseeing democratic elections in the former Ba'ath-dominated sports culture, first step to rebuilding the Olympic committee.
"Sport in Iraq has a very important unifying role to play. When Iraq beat Portugal in the football here, we got congratulations from the president and prime minister.
"Football caused a complete ceasefire – until the celebratory firing at the end. It was the one moment in the past few weeks when things have quietened down. Iraq is football mad. If you think Glasgow is football crazy, you should see them." It is another world from his original sports background. "I was involved in setting up the Scottish Premierleague in 1997, and we did some work for the SRU and Rangers." He used to play rugby, but broke a bone in his back paragliding. Now he is looking after the largest Olympic delegation Iraq has had since 1988 and studying for a masters degree in sport development.
His experience is probably unique in sport: "I had a blank sheet of paper. We had to start from ground zero."
Worth some media coverage? Apparently not: the only time the Iraqi Olympic team made the news was when they criticised Bush. But the admirable Clark reckoned they'd been set up:
Angry at being used by US President George W. Bush in a political broadcast, Iraq Olympic officials today said their athletes had been set up.
Footballers from the war-torn nation reacted furiously when told their country was being used in a campaign ad, calling on Bush to stop using them to win votes.
"Iraq as a team does not want Mr Bush to use us for the presidential campaign," midfielder Salih Sadir told Sports Illustrated magazine.
"He can find another way to advertise himself."
However, the Iraq delegation accused journalists of deliberately provoking an angry response from their players.
"Our purpose is not to politicise the football team in any way," said Mark Clark, a consultant for the Iraqi Olympic Committee.
"It seems the story was engineered."
The flags of Iraq and Afghanistan appear in the Bush commercial ahead of the Republican convention later this month. Bush is seeking re-election in November.
A narrator says: "At this Olympics there will be two more free nations - and two fewer terrorist regimes."
Asked to comment, another Iraqi player asked: "How will (Bush) meet his god having slaughtered so many men and women? He has committed so many crimes."
But Clark insisted journalists were wrong to take advantage of the athletes.
"It is a little naughty," he said. "The players are not very sophisticated politically, they are a little naive. Whoever posed these questions knew that the reaction would be negative.
"It is possible something was lost in translation. It's a free, new Iraq and the players are entitled to their opinions but we are disappointed."