KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Kuwait will be missing when the parade of national teams slowly winds around and fills the infield at the 2016 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony tonight.
Largely, the Kuwaitis have only themselves to blame for allowing internal politics to escalate into a losing battle with the main international sports federations, headed by the International Olympic Committee and world football governing body FIFA.
However, the prospect of being absent from a party which will watched by billions around the world appears to have prompted a shift in the political sands of the Gulf state.
This has been indicated by the first formal critical attack on the ruling domestic sports establishment by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the international sports powerbroker who has been an embattled target for much of the infighting within the upper reaches of the government and ruling family of which he is a member.
The background to the row which saw the formulation of a sports law which imposes government interference in defiance of international sports statutes is long and complex [ http://keirradnedge.com/2016/
However an indication of new thinking is contained in the publication of a powerful counter-attacking statement from the Kuwait Olympic Committee after the Swiss federal court endorsed a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport that the IOC and associated international sports federations were within their rights to suspend Kuwait from membership.
Hence the only Kuwaiti competitors in Rio would be marching, anonymously, behind the Olympic flag.
Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad, the president of Kuwait Olympic Committee and a brother of Sheikh Ahmad, blamed Kuwait’s descent into pariah status among the international sports community squarely on the shoulders of Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud (Minister of Information and Youth Affairs and head of the Public Authority for Sport) as well as vice-president Sulaiman Al-Adsani.
The PAS, said Sheikh Talal, needed to understand that it was essential to maintain a dialogue with international sport before rushing into creating domestic sports incompatible with standards set by the likes of the Olympic Charter.
Ratcheting up the attack, he added: “Those in charge of the sports suspension file, have deliberately worked to antagonise the international sports organizations, using approaches that lack of wisdom and experience and have caused these organisations to feel weary of this crisis.”
Battle of wills
A belief in the Sports Ministry that the international sports community would cede ground had been entirely misplaced.
Sheikh Talal stressed that, to the contrary, the international sports community was growing ever stronger as had been evidenced by governance action concerning the likes of major sports players including Russia, India and Argentina.
He added: “It is unfortunate that the minister and his assistant trespass on the autonomy of sports, forgetting the experiences of the State of Kuwait with the growing authority of international organizations and embassies of some major countries in the control of Kuwait’s commitments to the rights of children, workers, free trade and civil society organisations.”
Then he added, significantly: “We all feel pain and anguish, and alas, millions of people and other countries’ presidents and premiers shall see the Kuwaiti athletes marching behind the Olympic flag at the Opening Ceremony of Rio 2016, this is because of the minister and his assistant.”
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