BERLIN, Aug 16, (Agencies): The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday provisionally lifted a ban on Kuwait two days before the start of the Asian Games, allowing the country to participate under its own flag.
Kuwait’s national Olympic committee (KOC) has been banned since October 2015 after the government was accused of interference with a new sports law.
As a result, Kuwaiti athletes had to compete under the Olympic flag at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 and they have no access to IOC funds.
“In the interest of Kuwaiti athletes and as a gesture of goodwill to recognise the progress accomplished, the IOC Executive Board has decided to provisionally lift the suspension of the KOC with immediate effect,” the IOC said in a statement.
The Asian Games in Indonesia start on Saturday.
The IOC said the reasons for the suspension remained valid, “in particular the need to protect the Olympic movement in Kuwait from undue government interference”.
But it noted progress in the discussions with Kuwait and the agreement of a road map for fresh elections of all sports organisations in Kuwait and potential amendments to the controversial sports law.
Talks in the past years had failed to yield a result and Kuwait in 2016 repeatedly sued the IOC unsuccessfully for 1 billion dollars as compensation for the ban.
Kuwait said at the time the ban was unjustifiable and unfair and the IOC had not conducted “an appropriate investigation”. Kuwait had also been suspended in 2010 over a similar dispute but was reinstated before the 2012 London Olympics.
The country has had more than 15 national sports bodies suspended in the past years, including its football federation.
Kuwaiti Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs Mohammad Al-Jabri on Thursday expressed relief at the decision taken by the executive committee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), temporarily lifting the ban on Kuwaiti sports, pending “completion of the roadmap that has been agreed upon by the two parties.”
Al-Jabri said in a statement that the temporary lifting of the ban came after fruitful meetings with the IOC, during which “fair members” expressed understanding and respect toward the Kuwaiti Constitution and the State laws.
The road map that has been agreed upon aims at securing stability for sports in Kuwait, Minister Al-Jabri said.
He thanked His Highness the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, 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 for their guidance to overcome all obstacles facing Kuwaiti athletes.
Al-Jabri touted in particular diligent follow up on part of His Highness the Premier and expressed gratitude to all who had held the top posts of the Ministry of State for Youth Affairs and Public Authority for Sports in the past.
Moreover, he said, continuous support lent by the Speaker and members of the National Assembly was quite effective for lifting the ban, temporarily.
He affirmed that full coordination would be pursued with the IOC to implement all that has been agreed upon in the roadmap toward the aspired objective of lifting the ban permanently.