L O N D O N, Aug. 21 -- The International Olympic Committee has invited Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to send two observers to the Sydney Games but rejected appeals for Afghan athletes to be allowed to compete.
The IOC suspended Afghanistan’s national Olympic committee inOctober 1999, on grounds that it could no longer function under thehard-line Taliban regime in Kabul.
The Taliban-run committee does not meet IOC requirements forrecognition. Among other things, the Taliban bars women fromcompeting in sports.
The Taliban has been lobbying to overturn the suspension andclear the way for its athletes to compete in the Sydney Games.
“Athletes from Afghanistan will unfortunately not be able toparticipate in the games until the Taliban government hasrecognition of the international community,” IOC spokesmanFranklin Servan-Schreiber said Monday. “The Afghan athletes arenot coming; there is no national Olympic committee.”
Servan-Schreiber said the IOC was offering “technical andmaterial” sports assistance to Afghanistan and inviting twoTaliban representatives to Sydney — at their own expense — toobserve the games. The IOC will arrange accreditation for the twoofficials.
“We are not accepting Afghanistan in an official capacity,we’re just inviting two representatives to come to the games andsee for themselves what the games are about,” he said. “It’s apositive step for engaging dialogue for promotion of sportsworldwide. But there is absolutely no recognition or promise ofrecognition at this point.”
Women Not Allowed to Compete
IOC executive board member Jacques Rogge said the Taliban failedto meet the statutes of the Olympic Charter, especially regardingwomen’s rights.
“The prevailing rules in Afghanistan do not allow for freeparticipation in sport,” he said. “It’s understandable in acountry that has been under civil war for a long time. But youcannot accept anybody or everybody; they have to correspond to therules.”