By Karolos Grohmann
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) – Kuwait, suspended since 2015 from the Olympics over government interference in the country’s Olympic Committee, is ready to resume talks with the International Olympic Committee to lift the ban, an IOC official said.
The country’s national Olympic committee (NOC) remains banned almost two years 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 last year. They also have no access to IOC funds.
“We have had no sign (from the government) until a week ago,” Pere Miro, the IOC’s deputy director general for relations with the Olympic Movement told Reuters on Wednesday.
“They have now written a letter to us saying that they have a new sports law and … that they would like us to discuss with them this law and see if we can solve the situation.”
This is a U-turn for Kuwait which in 2016 had repeatedly sued the IOC unsuccessfully for 1 billion dollars as compensation for the ban.
Kuwait said last year the ban was unjustifiable and unfair and said the IOC had not conducted “an appropriate investigation”. Kuwait was suspended in 2010 over a similar dispute but reinstated before the 2012 London Olympics.
Kuwait has also seen more than 15 national sports bodies suspended, Miro said, including the country’s football federation.
“Kuwait at this moment is not able to take part in the majority of international competitions. Football is obviously the most popular but more than 15 federations have been banned,” he said.
“We believe this letter is a sign of goodwill already. This letter opens the possibility of dialogue that they closed months ago.”
Miro said the IOC would now study the new law to see if it was in line with its Olympic charter before meeting with the Kuwaitis.
Athletics powerhouse Kenya, while not suspended yet, has also not received any IOC funding since March following internal squabbles, mismanagement of funds for Rio de Janeiro and disputes with the government.
The IOC has long demanded a new election for Kenya’s Olympic committee but Miro said Kenya was dragging its feet.
A local court has blocked a new election pending a decision regarding the participation in the vote of one local federation in the latest delay after a deal between the government, the NOC and the IOC was carved out after Rio.
“Kenya is one of the most important athletics countries in the world,” Miro said. “We are not happy at all. It’s a shame that a country that is so powerful, so good, that has so high potential is in this situation.”
He said the IOC would continue with the funding freeze until an election was held and new NOC leadership elected.
“They (current NOC) do nothing in this moment. They perpetuate themselves. We hope this court will act fast and as diligently as possible. The decision was expected a few days ago but has again been postponed until the end of July,” he said.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Alison Williams)