Kuwait facing ban from Rio 2016 after refusing to back down in row with IOC
Progress towards lifting Kuwait’s ban from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stalled once again following unsuccessful negotiations with Government officials,insidethegames has been told.
Unless there is an unexpected breakthrough over the next two months, Kuwait’s suspension will not be lifted in time for them to compete at this year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
A decision is expected to be made at an IOC Executive Board meeting here in June.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) also seem likely to move their headquarters building out of Kuwait City unless a solution is found.
Kuwait was banned from the IOC last October for “undue Government interference” only three years after the lifting of a similar suspension shortly before London 2012.
It followed a new law coming into force which threatened the autonomy of the Kuwait Olympic Committee and all other National Federations, it was claimed.
It reportedly allowed undue Government interference while also ending compliance with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
Relations between international sport and the Kuwait Government became increasingly hostile in the months after the ban.
Sporting leaders – including Association of National Olympic Committees and OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah and his brother, Kuwait Olympic Committee and Kuwait Football Association President Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad Al Sabah – were handed fines and lawsuits for supposedly complying with the sports bodies.
A threat was also made to end the diplomatic immunity of the OCA in Kuwait, and to force all non-nationals working at the new headquarters there – officially opened only in 2014 – to leave the country.
After months of deadlock, a meeting was eventually brokered by the United Nations between delegations from both the IOC and the Kuwait Government in Geneva.
There were no representatives from the highest level were present from either side, however.
The IOC group headed by Jerome Poivey, head of Institutional Relations and Governance in the NOC relations department, rather than IOC deputy secretary general Pere Miró or autonomy tsar, Patrick Hickey.
Three conditions were made by the IOC in what they considered a compromise.
These related to the moderation of the most controversial elements of the sports law, the resumption of talks between the Government and the OCA, and the ending of court orders against Sheikh Ahmad or any other official.
Two draft agreements were eventually drawn up by both sides, they claim, only for the Kuwaiti delegation to refuse to sign after consulting with absent superiors back home.
The Kuwait Government deny this, however, telling Reuters that the IOC had distorted facts.
This response has, in turn, been questioned by the IOC, who claim they are still willing to sign the draft proposals, which would ensure an immediate lifting of the ban.
This appears unlikely to happen any time soon, however, with the Government reluctant to be seen as having backed down or to have done anything which could be interpreted as a loss of national sovereignty.
“If Kuwait are going to play a role on the world stage, then they have to abide by international rules,” the IOC claim.
If the ban is not lifted, then Kuwaiti athletes would be permitted to compete independently under the Olympic Flag at Rio 2016, although this would be subject to approval at the IOC Executive Board meeting in June.
There are several other factors at play behind the scenes in what is a remarkable example of overlap between international sport and international politics.
In 2013, IOC member Sheikh Ahmad claimed that former Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah and former speaker Jassem Mohammad Abdul-Mohsem Al-Karafi had laundered money, misused public funds and plotted to topple the Government.
These were eventually dismissed as “fabrications”, however, and he had to apologise to the ruling Emir, Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.
Personal animosity between Sheikh Ahmad and his cousin Sheikh Salman Sabah Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah, the Minister of Information and Minister of State for Youth Affairs, is also significant.
Sheikh Salman resigned as head of the Asian Shooting Confederation last year after standing unsuccessfully against Mexico’s IOC member Olegario Vazquez Raña to become head of the International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) in 2014, an election he lost by 165 votes to 128.
insidethegames exclusively reported on the eve of the election that he had been allegedly using his Government position to illegally collect votes.
Sheikh Salman, a key figure behind the new law in Kuwait, blamed Sheikh Ahmad for his defeat and for spreading these allegations.
- By Nick Butler at the Palace Hotel in Lausanne
- Republished with permission insidethegames.biz