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IOC fully lifts Olympics ban on Kuwait

Athletes eye Tokyo 2020 Games

BERLIN, July 6: Kuwaiti athletes will compete at next year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics under their country’s flag after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday lifted its suspension of the nations after almost four years.

Kuwait was suspended back in October 2015 over a new sports law that the IOC said at the time was interfering with the autonomy of the Olympic movement.

As a result, Kuwaiti athletes had to compete under the Olympic flag at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and until now had no access to IOC funds.

“The (IOC) Executive Board … today (Friday) fully lifted the suspension of the Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC) as a result of the successful implementation of a roadmap agreed between all parties,” the IOC said in a statement.

Talks in past years repeatedly failed to yield a result and Kuwait in 2016 had unsuccessfully sued the IOC for 1 billion dollars as compensation for the ban.

The Executive Board (EB) of the IOC on Friday fully lifted the suspension of the KOC as a result of the successful implementation of a roadmap agreed between all parties.

The first step of the roadmap (revision and adoption of new statutes for the sports clubs, followed by elections) was successfully completed within the prescribed deadline (end of January 2019), said the IOC in a press release.

The second step (revision and adoption of new statutes for the National Sports Federations, followed by elections) was implemented in close coordination with the International Federations (IFs) concerned, and was successfully completed in early June 2019.

The third and last step (revision and adoption of the KOC statutes, followed by KOC elections) was successfully completed on June 30, 2019, with the holding of the KOC Elective General Assembly.

The KOC was suspended by decision of the IOC EB on Oct 27, 2015, to protect the Olympic Movement in Kuwait from undue government interference, after a sports law that was not compatible with the basic principles that govern the Olympic Movement was passed in the country.

On Aug 16, 2018, the IOC EB decided to provisionally lift the suspension of the KOC, acknowledging the progress made, which included the revision of the sports law and an agreement to establish a process for elections of all sports organisations in Kuwait.

Following this decision, which enabled the athletes to compete in the Asian Games in Jakarta/Palembang and the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 under their country’s flag, a roadmap was established under the supervision of a Supervisory Committee, appointed by the IOC President, Thomas Bach.

Friday’s decision follows the recommendation of the Supervisory Committee to fully lift the suspension of the KOC with immediate effect.

Praised

His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah praised Friday His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah for his “relentless” efforts to reaffirm Kuwait’s status at the international level.

His Highness the Crown Prince, in a cable to His Highness the Amir to congratulate him for the IOC permanently lifting of a ban on Kuwait sport, described the end of the ban as a “very good news for every Kuwaiti.”

His Highness the Crown Prince prayed to Allah the Almighty to bestow his blessing upon Kuwait.

His Highness the Amir thanked His Highness the Crown Prince and said the lifting of the ban brought joy for all Kuwaiti people.

His Highness the Amir commended the relentless efforts of the legislative and executive authorities, the Ministry of State for Youth and the Public Authority for Sport which contributed to the permanent lift of the ban.

His Highness the Amir, in a cable to His Highness the Crown Prince, hoped the lifting of the ban would pave way for sport achievements at regional and international levels.

Kuwait National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim congratulated Friday Kuwait political leadership, people and athletes after the IOC permanently lifted ban on sports.

Al-Ghanim, in a message on his Twitter account, expressed gratitude for all those who worked for lifting the ban, on top of them His Highness the Amir.

“I would like to congratulate every Kuwaiti and athletes in particular for the permanent lift of ban on Kuwait sport, and thank every person who worked towrd that result, foremost His Highness the Amir,” said Al-Ghanim.

His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah lauded the IOC’s decision to lift the suspension of Kuwaiti sport activities, clearing the way for Kuwaiti athletes to partake in and raise national flag in Olympic games.

His Highness the Premier applauded His Highness the Amir’s directives and support to government and parliament’s efforts to end this suspension. These remarks were conveyed by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Anas Khalid Al-Saleh in statements to reporters on Friday.

Al-Saleh stated that His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak has instructed the government to provide all support to Kuwaiti youth and employ all potential to improve national sports.

He thanked the National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanim and Kuwaiti lawmakers for their full cooperation with the government in implementing required sports reform to lift the Olympic and international sports suspension.

KOC Chairman Sheikh Fahad Nasser Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah called on Kuwait’s sports people to work hard and sincerely to put Kuwaiti sport on the world map.

In a press statement on Friday, Sheikh Fahad congratulated His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah and the sports family in Kuwait on the occasion of the announcement of the IOC to lift the immediate and total suspension of Kuwaiti sport.

Sheikh Fahad thanked all those who worked and contributed to lifting the suspension of the Kuwaiti sport, praising the efforts of the Council of Ministers, the National Assembly, the Public Authority for Sport, the sports associations and the media.

Several MPs voiced contentment over the decision of the IOC to lift the sports ban on Kuwait Friday, turning a new page in providing appropriate environment for the development of the local sports sector.

MPs revealed the quest for lifting the ban was an uphill battle that the country would not have overcome without the cooperation of the Parliament and government.

Rapporteur of the Sports and Youth Committee in the Parliament MP Ahmed Al-Fadel pointed out that the last step in the agreed requirements with the IOC is the election of KOC, which will lead to total lifting of the ban.

He expressed gratitude to everyone who contributed to this achievement, especially those from the Kuwaiti sports movement. He said this has been achieved through diplomatic dialogues, decision making and consensus between the two part; while maintaining the full authority of the government and control over relevant State decisions.

On the other hand, MP Abdullah Al-Kandari expressed happiness over this development. He called for solid initiatives through legislative channels in order to create an environment for the development of the sports sector.

MP Khaled Al-Shatti asserted that the approval of the new sports law in 2017 was the first step towards lifting the ban. He disclosed there were attempts to block approval of the law before it even reached Abdullah Al-Salem Hall; but that law as well as supporting legislation, proposals and efforts led to lifting the ban.

MP Osama Al-Shaheen added the Parliament must learn from this experience and refrain from passing any sports-related law without evaluating it thoroughly in coordination with experts in this sector.

He also stressed the importance of raising sports awareness through various activities in schools, sports clubs for retirees and other venues.

Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Mohammad Al-Jabri on Friday congratulated His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah on final and permanent lift of the international ban on the Kuwaiti sports.

The minister has also felicitated National Assembly Speaker Marzouq Ali Al-Ghanim on the ban lift, a move that would pave the way for Kuwait to restore its normal status on the universal sports map.

The ban withdrawal, done according to a decision by the executive commission of the IOC, came after Kuwait honored all its commitments through the road map that had been agreed upon among the stakeholders, crowned with election of a board for the KOC after election of boards for the clubs and federations.

In a press statement, Al-jabri affirmed that the executive and legislative authorities had spared no effort in implementing the address by His Highness the Amir to the youth, vowing to remain their ardent supporter. “This what had prompted us to act for lifting the international stoppage of the Kuwaiti sports and offer continuous support for the young athletes, in harmony with His Highness the Amir speech.”

Minister Al-Jabri praised the major role of the National Assembly Speaker, the MPs, members of the parliamentary youth and sports commission, the Kuwaiti Government represented by the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs, the Public Authority for Sports (PAS), the negotiating team headed PAS Director General Dr Humoud Flaiteh, his deputy Dr Sagr Al-Mullah and the attorney Saleh Al-Qahtani for their role in hammering out a consensus formula with the concerned international organizations.

Minister Al-jabri indicated that the move to lift the ban came after years during which “damage was inflicted in all factors of the Kuwaiti sports.”

He also congratulated the Kuwaiti people in general and the athletes in particular on this step that would enable all teams, clubs and athletes to partake in international tournaments under the Kuwaiti Flag.

The near future will witness a new overhaul for the Kuwaiti sports, in cooperation among all the concerned parties.

By Ahmed Al-Naqeeb

Arab Times Staff and Agencies

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