Olympics Summer

Iraq banned from Beijing Olympics

Iraq has been banned from competing at the Beijing Games because of government interference, the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday.

Iraq has been banned from competing at the Beijing Games because of government interference, the International Olympic Committee announced Thursday.

Iraq's Olympic committee had been under suspension from the IOC since June after the country's government dismissed officials in favour of its own appointees, who weren't recognized by the IOC.

The move ran afoul of the IOC charter, which requires national Olympic committees to be free of political influence.

The Iraqi government said the old committee was illegitimate after four of its 11 members were kidnapped in Baghdad in 2006.

"This morning we were informed of the final decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee," Hussein al-Amidi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, said Thursday.

Iraq had planned to send a team of five athletes to Beijing, but missed a Wednesday deadline to submit a squad for the Aug. 8-24 Games amid its stalemate with the IOC.

Iraq's places will be offered to athletes from other countries.

"The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "The IOC very sadly has now to acknowledge that it is likely there will be no Iraqi presence at the Beijing Olympic Games, despite our best efforts."

The IOC said the Iraqi government did not accept an invitation to come to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to try to end the dispute.

"It's a final decision, there is no way to appeal," Amidi said. "This means that Iraq will not take part in the coming Olympic Games. It is a blow to Iraq and its international reputation, its athletes and its youth."

"I swear those athletes who have been training… they phoned me today and they were crying and were very upset."

Iraq's government said after the June 4 suspension that it wanted to meet with the IOC "to make its legitimate case."

It said the decision to dissolve the Olympic committee was based on "solid evidence of blatant corruption, lack of legitimate transparent electoral processes and accountability, and absence of ratified legislation."

Iraq's athletes are not the first to miss an Olympic Games because of government interference.

In the most recent case, Afghanistan was prevented from sending a team to the 2000 Sydney Games because of the Taliban regime's intervention in sports administration.

With files from the Associated Press

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