Foreign Policy Blogs

Iraq Banned from Competing in Olympics

The International Olympic Committee has banned Iraq from competing in China next month.  However, as usual, there are two completely different versions of the story and I still don't fully understand what happened.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that many major media outlets are not reporting on these events. 

CNN (with the most coverage) reported last Thursday that the Iraqi government reappointed their own National Olympic Committee, unrecognized by the IOC and further, against their rules.  Iraqi officials claim that the committee appointed for them was corrupt and grossly outdated, holding members in their one-year posts for over five years.  Further, they were running meetings without quorums. 

In their official statement, the IOC claimed that the Iraqi government is interfering in the processes of their National Committee, especially by installing their own committee leader, the Iraqi Minister of Sport.  Further, they claim that the Iraqi government mismanaged the situation by not responding to an invitation last week to meet and discuss the problem with IOC officials. 

Today, CNN reports that Iraqi officials will attend that meeting after all in order to discuss Iraq's potential place at the Olympics.  Iraq believes that it was mistreated; the IOC did not take into account their reasons for dismissing the National Committee, and according to Jassim M. Jaffer, Minister of Youth and Sports, they are considering legal action.  On the other side, IOC spokeswoman, Emmanuelle Moreau stated Thursday, “The athletes have been ill-served by the government in Iraq,” and that Iraqi track and field athletes could still compete if the original National Committee is reinstated. 

I’m not sure which side I’m on in this situation.  One the one hand, the IOC has a commitment to fairness and the Charter, but on the other hand, they should uphold a commitment to honesty as well.  Iraqi concerns over the corruption of their committee should be heard, however, this is horrible timing on the part of the Iraqi government.  Fighting the ban in this manner (especially with legal action) still leaves Iraqi athletes missing deadlines and being disqualified from competition.  I would think that instead of throwing a tantrum, at this point officials might consider conceding until after competition, allowing their athletes to compete.  Because, after all, wouldn't successful athletes prove Iraq's progress more so than a government tantrum? 



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;