Following up on an earlier post, after intense last-minute negotiations, the IOC has lifted its ban on Iraqi athletes at the Beijing games. In exchange, Iraq agreed to hold elections for its National Olympic Committee in November, under IOC observation.
That wasn’t very hard, now, was it? Iraq was concerned about the integrity of its Committee after charges of bribery and fraud. The IOC, bureaucrats to the core, couldn’t tolerate the idea of rooting out corruption at the expense of following the rules. It took international scrutiny, pressure from regional organizations, and, of course, the opprobrium of Marque’s Letters to push the parties to a compromise — a compromise, by the way, that essentially adopts the position held by the Iraqis.
But the IOC got its pound of flesh — by dashing the hopes of five Iraqi athletes hoping to compete in rowing, judo, weightlifting, and archery. Why? The IOC’s rules, of course, which set deadlines for enrolling in these events that passed while the IOC maintained its intransigence.
I hope the stadium cheers loudest for the remaining Iraqi team (of two) as it enters the Opening Ceremonies on August 8th. They braved IEDs, kidnappings, sectarian violence — and the wrath of the IOC itself.