Subject: Olympics: East Timor athletes can compete as individuals

Reuters May 26, 2000

Olympics: East Timor athletes can compete as individuals

By Gareth Chetwynd

RIO DE JANEIRO, May 26 (Reuters) - A handful of athletes from East Timor will be allowed to compete as individuals in the Sydney Olympics but without national colours or anthems, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board ruled on Friday.

This status as ``Individual Olympic Athletes'' was afforded to safeguard the rights of those otherwise prevented from competing in the Games, IOC director general Francois Carrard said.

The Olympic Charter permits participation by internationally recognised sovereign states. East Timor voted last year to break from 24 years of Indonesian rule. The United Nations is helping prepare the devastated territory for independence.

``Past experience shows that sovereignty is an evolving process but it is extremely important that athletes are given the opportunity to participate,'' Carrard said.


Citing Rule 9.1 of the Olympic Charter, the IOC decision stressed that East Timorese athletes must wear unmarked uniforms and parade behind the Olympic flag. If they win any medals the Olympic flag will be hoisted and the Olympic anthem played.

Carrard said that the recent endorsement of this proposal by UN secretary-general Kofi Annan was an important factor behind the decision.

He acknowledged that Portuguese and Australian authorities had been particularly active in pushing for admittance of the athletes but stressed that the Indonesian National Olympic Committee had been consulted and had raised no objection.


Pere Miro, leader of the IOC's Olympic Solidarity movement, said the task of identifying athletes able to compete would be shortly carried out by a IOC delegation.

``Once they are identified they will need some help with matters such as training and in achieving an Olympic level,'' he said, referring to the hardships suffered in East Timor.

Miro said the IOC expected to find two or three athletes able to compete in Sydney, possibly in track and field and boxing events.

``We will have to waive some of the normal qualifying requirements,'' he said.

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