Iraq gets OK for Beijing Games
Olympic officials said Tuesday that Iraq will be allowed participate in the Beijing Games, reversing a previous ban on the country.
The International Olympic Committee said the decision comes as a result of an Iraqi pledge to ensure the independence of its national Olympic committee.
Iraq began a last-ditch effort Tuesday to reverse its ban from the Beijing Games, sending representatives to Switzerland to meet with International Olympic Committee officials.
The Iraqi delegation, led by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, was seeking to get the IOC to reconsider last week's decision to ban the country from the Aug. 8-24 Olympics because of government interference in the country's national Olympic body.
The decision allows two Iraqi qualifiers to compete in Beijing's track and field events, entries for which must be submitted by Wednesday.
Five other Olympics hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting lost their chance to compete when a deadline to select teams for those sports passed last Wednesday.
The IOC suspended Iraq in May 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. Their fates remain unknown.
'Iraqi people need hope'
IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said Monday that the organization is expecting Iraq to formally pledge to hold free elections for its national committee under IOC observation.
Hours before the talks, a delegation of Iraqi groups in Switzerland came to the IOC headquarters to deliver a letter to Olympic officials expressing dismay at their country's suspension and requesting that the decision be overturned.
Ahmed Tabour, head of the Iraqi Cultural and Sports Committee in Switzerland, said his country was being treated unfairly by the IOC.
"Iraq was never suspended during the days of Saddam, who personally appointed the National Olympic Committee," he told the Associated Press. "The Iraqi people need hope, and sport gives them a lot of hope."
With files from the Associated Press