The International Olympic Committee has announced that Iraq will not compete at the Beijing Games because of "government interference" in the running of its sporting bodies.
|Iraq is back...in Olympic exile [GALLO/GETTY]
The IOC suspended Iraq's national Olympic committee in June after the Iraqi government dismissed the previous committee and installed its own group chaired by the sports minister.
The IOC Charter forbids such political interference in the Olympic movement and officials in Baghdad were informed that the suspension was being upheld.
The ensuing stalemate between the two sides meant Iraq missed Wednesday's deadline to submit a team for the August 8-24 games.
"The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed,'' IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said.
"The IOC very sadly has now to acknowledge that it is likely there will be no Iraqi presence at the Beijing Olympic Games, despite our best efforts.''
Four Iraqi athletes were expected to compete in non track-and-field sports; archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting.
Their places will be offered to athletes from other countries.
"Clearly, we'd very much like to have seen Iraq's athletes in Beijing,'' Davies said.
"We are very disappointed that the athletes have been so ill-served by their own government's actions.''
The IOC and Olympic Council of Asia jointly sent a letter Wednesday to Iraq's minister for youth and sport Jassem Mohammed Jaafar confirming Iraq's suspension "despite joint efforts.... over the past few months to find a positive solution with Iraqi authorities.''
The case against suspension
Iraq's government said after the June 4 suspension that it wanted to meet the IOC "to make its legitimate case.''
It said the decision to dissolve the Olympic committee was based on "solid evidence of blatant corruption, lack of legitimate transparent electoral processes and accountability, and absence of ratified legislation.''
"We are fully confident that once the Iraqi delegation attends the meeting of the IOC and presents the facts, the provisions for the suspension will be immediately removed and the suspension will be lifted accordingly,'' it said in June.
Davies said Thursday that the Iraqi government was asked to come to Switzerland to discuss possible remedies "but (it) did not positively respond to the IOC's invitation.''
She said the suspension destroyed progress made in Iraq's sporting community since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
"Over the last five years, the IOC and the wider Olympic family have provided funding and training opportunities to support the Iraqi NOC and more than 50 Iraqi athletes and coaches,'' Davies said.
Iraq's athletes are not the first to miss an Olympic Games because of government interference.
In the most recent case, Afghanistan was prevented from sending a team to the 2000 Sydney Games because of the Taliban regime's intervention in sports administration.