IOC still locked in Saudi standoff

The IOC ticked some major items off the 'to do list' as executive board meetings wrapped up on Thursday, but the issue of Saudi women competing at the London Games remains unresolved.


After trimming the list of candidate cities for the 2020 Olympics from five to three on Wednesday, the IOC announced it had resolved a long-running dispute with the United States Olympic Committee and finalised a new revenue-sharing agreement.

However, other nagging issues remain as Saudi Arabia continue to resist IOC efforts to have women compete in London while the IOC ethics commission wrestled with a scandal swirling around Pal Schmitt, the former-Hungarian president and IOC member accused of plagiarism.

IOC President Jacques Rogge, under pressure from human rights and sports groups to force Saudi Arabia to have female athletes as part of its London delegation, refused to consider the possibility of sanctions against the Gulf state or allow Saudi women to compete under a neutral flag.

"We are continuing to discuss with them, and their athletes are training and we hope that they will qualify in due time for the Games," Rogge said. "There is absolutely no reason to consider the participation of Saudi women under an IOC flag.

"There is a commitment (to allow women to compete), it is not an easy situation and we are working with them to find a solution."

If the issue remains unresolved, Saudi Arabia would be the only country competing in London without a female representative.

Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia were the only countries to send all male teams to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Both Qatar and Brunei have committed to sending women athletes to London.

Schmitt, a double Olympic gold medal-winning fencer who ran for the IOC presidency in 2001, could face sanctions after he was stripped of his sports doctorate by Budapest's Semmelweis University for copying sections of his thesis without proper acknowledgement.

"We are for some information, correspondence," said Rogge.

"We want a fair procedure with Mr. Schmitt and some documentation was missing before that we could not take a decision.

"It is just a matter of respecting the rights of the defendant."

Rogge spent a good part of this closing news conference fielding questions about the IOC decision on Wednesday to put Madrid, Istanbul and Tokyo through as finalists to stage the 2020 Summer Olympics, dropping Doha and the Azerbaijan capital Baku from the running.

The United States could soon throw its hat into the ring as a possible Games host after agreeing a new revenue-sharing deal with the IOC.

The IOC and USOC ended their long-running and approved a 20-year agreement clearing the path for future U.S. Olympic bids.

The dispute over how to divide billions of dollars in television rights and sponsorships had dragged on for years and left the USOC a virtual outcast within Olympic circles, paralyzing American efforts to stage an Olympic Games.

"We hope this has removed a road block from a successful bid from the United States," said USOC Chairman Larry Probst. "We have a board meeting scheduled for June and I am sure that will be a significant topic of conversation.

"We will discuss our strategy there and probably begin to make some decisions about a potential bid going forward."

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