Olympic Committee Warns
Iran: Keep Hands Off Sports Bodies
July 06, 2012
The International Olympic Committee has sent Iran a second letter over
perceived government interference in Iran’s National Olympic Committee.
Last week, the IOC urged the Iranians to discuss the matter with
relevant government authorities to make sure Iran was not in violation
of the Olympic Charter.
The Charter specifically states “The NOCs must preserve their autonomy
and resist all pressures of any kind, including but not limited to
political, legal, religious or economic pressures which may prevent them
from complying with the Olympic Charter.”
Ed Hula III is with aroundtherings.com, a website that covers only the
Olympics and is based in Atlanta, Georgia. He told Middle East Voices
that Iranian sports federation officials had been removed from their
jobs because of government pressure.
“It’s believed that the authority of the leaders of the sports
federations had been removed by the government, which is trying to exert
undue influence onto them,” Hula said.
“The Olympic Charter expressly says that all sports bodies must be free
of government interference, and the IOC was basically expressing its
concerns over reports that it had heard and was reminding the [Iranian]
government that sports bodies have to be free of government
interference,” he added.
The Tehran Times reported that Iranian minister of Sports and Youth
Affairs, Mohammad Abbasi, had been summoned to parliament (majlis) to
answer questions about the letter.The newspaper reported that in the
last few months, the directors of several Iranian sports federations had
been dismissed by the government without a General Assembly meeting,
something that violates the principle of autonomy.
Hula told Middle East Voices that continued government interference
could lead to sanctions, though he admitted a ban from London is not
“The IOC could - in theory - prevent the Iranians from competing under
their flag at the Olympics,” he said. That’s the last ditch option. At
the Opening Ceremonies they would march under the Olympic flag instead
of the Iranian one; if they won a medal, the Olympic flag would fly
instead of the Iranian one and so on,” he said.
However, Hula admitted such sanctions are not likely to take effect -
usually because National Olympic Committees comply with the IOC
directives so no further action is needed.
“This is basically the first step that the IOC does take,” Hula said.
“It’s basically putting the ball in motion, and saying ‘look these are
the rules, and we hope that you respect the rules and the Olympic
Charter,’” he added. “It’s basically informing them so they know the
consequences and what’s at stake.”
The warning comes as Tehran announced that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
plans to attend the London Games. News reports quote Iranian Olympic
Committee Secretary General Bahram Afsharzadeh as saying that
Ahmadinejad will fly to London July 26. Earlier reports had indicated
the Iranian president would not go to the Games to protest plans to
fingerprint and face-scan Olympic athletes and their coaches as they
enter Britain for the Games.
The IOC letter also comes after Afsharzadeh complained that the U.K. has
refused to grant visas to Iranian spectators headed to London. Press TV
quotes the Iranian official as saying that even though visa applications
were filed a year ago, no visas appear to have been issued.
Britain’s Minister for Sport and the Olympics, Hugh Robertson, said that
visas from foreign nationals to attend the games are rejected only for a
particular reason. Robertson told the insidethegames.biz website that
anyone denied a visa is turned down for a specific reason, not because
of where the application originates.
The issue was raised with Robertson last month after several Chinese
citizens reportedly purchased Games tickets before discovering their
visa applications had been rejected.
Relations between Britain and Iran have been strained since protesters
stormed the British embassy in Tehran last year, ransacking offices and
burning British flags in response to sanctions imposed over Iran’s
nuclear program. The embassy was subsequently closed. In response,
Britain shut Iran’s embassy in London and expelled its staff from the
Iran plans to send around 50 athletes to compete in the London Games,
which begin July 27.