While there has been much publicity about whether Saudi Arabia will send any female athletes to the London 2012 Olympics (the latest news is that they have allowed women to compete), there is another Muslim-majority country that definitely won’t be sending any female athletes. Actually, they won’t be sending any male athletes either, because this country does not exist. Or rather, it has only been recognised by 80 countries worldwide, and therefore does not exist in the eyes of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The country in question is Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. The IOC is not the only body to not recognise Kosovo, neither does the U.N, due to Russian and Chinese opposition to Kosovan independence.
This leaves Kosovan sports people in a difficult situation. Ironically, the IOC made an exception for athletes from Yugoslavia and Macedonia in the 1992 Barcelona Games and allowed them to compete as independents, as Yugoslavia was then under UN sanctions and Macedonia hadn’t yet formed a National Olympic Committee. East Timorese were given permission in the 2000 Sydney Games to compete as independents, and in the upcoming Olympics, athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles will be permitted to do the same.
However, the IOC has firmly blocked this option for Kosovo, in a decision made at the same time as one not allowing female Saudi athletes to compete as independents either, possibly because letting the female Saudis do this would enable the Saudi National Olympic Committee to keep their ban on female athletes. [Read more...]