Olympics: IOC Lifts Iraq’s Beijing Ban

LAUSANNE, Switzerland: The ban on Iraq competing at the Beijing Olympics next month has been lifted, the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday.

Iraq’s Olympic contingent were cleared to take part in the 2008 Games after agreement was reached between the IOC and the Iraqi government at a crisis meeting at the IOC’s headquarters in Lausanne.

As the deadline for competitors at the Games for all events except athletics passed on July 23 the Iraqi contingent will now number only two athletes.

The lifting of the ban came about after the Iraqi government agreed on a series of steps leading to a fully functioning independent National Olympic Committee (NOC) in Iraq.

IOC president Jacques Rogge hailed the eleventh hour deal, saying: “We look forward to seeing the Iraqi flag in Beijing.”

The Olympic chief added: “I commend the government of Iraq for reaching an agreement that serves the long-term interest of Iraqi athletes.

“We have said all along that we want to see Iraqi athletes in Beijing.”

In June the IOC had suspended Iraq for “political interference” in its NOC which was sacked in May and replaced by a new panel headed by Iraqi Youth and Sports Minister Jassem Jaafar.

Now, under the deal brokered on Tuesday, rather than being frustrated observers Iraqi athletes will compete in Beijing under the Iraqi flag, led by coaches and team leaders selected by the independent Iraqi NOC.

Five government representatives will be invited by the IOC as observers to the Games in Beijing.

The Lausanne agreement also calls for the transparent and fair election of a new, independent Iraqi National Olympic Committee, no later than the end of November.

This process will be overseen by the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia and will be held in cooperation with the Government of Iraq, and in accordance with the Olympic Charter. – AFP/de

Channel News Asia

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