News / Middle East

Olympic Committee Warns Iran: Keep Hands Off Sports Bodies

An Iranian soccer fan reacts after Iran lost to Iraq in the second preliminary round of the Asian qualifiers for 2012 London Olympics, at Azadi (Freedom) stadium in Tehran, June 23, 2011.
An Iranian soccer fan reacts after Iran lost to Iraq in the second preliminary round of the Asian qualifiers for 2012 London Olympics, at Azadi (Freedom) stadium in Tehran, June 23, 2011.
David Byrd
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 said 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 said that continued government interference could lead to sanctions, though he admitted a ban from London is not likely.

“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.

However, 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 country.

Iran plans to send around 50 athletes to compete in the London Games, which begin July 27.

You May Like

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

Ninety percent of homes in one small village were damaged or destroyed as government forces failed to stop a rebel advance More

Pakistan’s 'Last Self-Declared Jew' Attacked, Detained

Argument about the rights of non-Muslims in Pakistan allegedly results in mob beating well-known Jewish Pakistani More

Turkey Cracks Down on Political Dissent, Again

People daring to engage in political dissent ahead of upcoming general elections could find themselves in jail More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobanii
X
Mahmoud Bali
March 06, 2015 8:43 PM
Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Their Own Words: Citizens of Kobani

Civilians are slowly returning to Kobani, after Kurdish fighters backed by coalition airstrikes fought off a four-month siege of the northern Syrian town by Islamic State militants. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Mahmoud Bali talked to some of those who have returned. We hear about the devastation of Kobani through their own words.
Video

Video In Ukraine's Nikishino, No House Untouched by Fighting

In the village of Nikishino, in eastern Ukraine, recent fighting has brought utter devastation. Ninety percent of the houses are damaged or destroyed after government forces tried and failed to stop rebels advancing on the strategically important town of Debaltseve nearby. Patrick Wells reports for VOA from Nikishino.
Video

Video Crime Scenes Re-Created in 3-D Visualization

Police and prosecutors sometimes resort to re-creations of crime scenes in order to better understand the interaction of all participants in complicated cases. A Swiss institute says advanced virtual reality technology can be used for quality re-creations of events at the moment of the crime. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Sierra Leone Ebola Orphans Face Another Crisis

There's growing concern about the future of an orphanage run by a British charity in Sierra Leone, after a staff member and his wife died this week from Ebola. The Saint George Foundation Orphanage in Freetown is now in quarantine, with more than 20 children and seven staff in lock-down. The BBC has agreed to share Ebola-related material with Voice of America because of the difficulties faced by media organizations reporting the crisis. Clive Myrie reports from Sierra Leone.
Video

Video Growing Concerns Over Whether Myanmar’s Next Elections Will Be Fair

Myanmar has scheduled national elections for November that are also expected to include a landmark referendum on the country's constitution. But there are growing concerns over whether the government is taking the necessary steps to prepare for a free and fair vote. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman was recently in Myanmar and files this report from our Southeast Asia bureau in Bangkok.
Video

Video Nigeria’s Ogonis Divided Over Resuming Oil Production

More than two decades ago, Nigeria’s Ogoni people forced Shell oil company to cease drilling on their land, saying it was polluting the environment. Now, some Ogonis say it’s time for the oil to flow once again. Chris Stein reports from Kegbara Dere, Nigeria.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More