x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Kuwaiti anger over suspension

International Olympic body accused of 'victimisation' after they were supended from the Games this week.

KUWAIT CITY // A Kuwaiti sports official has accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of victimising the country by suspending them from international Olympic competitions earlier this week. Kuwait funds their sports movement in a similar way to other countries in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) but they are being treated differently to neighbouring countries, said the official at the Public Authority for Youth and Sport (PAYS), on the condition of anonymity.

"The other countries are doing the same as us: Saudi Arabia, [the United Arab] Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, and nobody said that they are interfering. "Maybe somebody there [in the IOC] is against Kuwait." "For three years, they have been suspending us: football, and now the Olympic committee. "We don't know why they are against our laws." PAYS are the public authority responsible for distributing about US$150 million (Dh551m) a year, land and facilities to sports in Kuwait including football and other Olympic sports, the official said.

He added that many sportsmen and women need government support in Kuwait because, unlike some countries in the West, their athletes are amateurs. "They are against us within the IOC; they say it's not permissible for the government to give money," he said. The Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC) was suspended on January 1. This was because of "political interference by the government in the Kuwaiti sports movement", an IOC statement said.

Officials at the KOC were unavailable for comment about the suspension. The chairman of PAYS, Faisal al Jazzaf, said last week the suspension is temporary and will be lifted when Kuwaiti sports laws are amended to fit with the Olympic charter. He said Kuwait's minister of social affairs and labour, Mohammed al Afasi, had sent a letter to Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, to confirm that parliament is committed to updating the sports laws, and gave details of the amendments.

The KOC is not the first sports organisation in the country to feel the wrath of the international federations. The football association was suspended by Fifa, the sport's world governing body, twice in the last three years because of "political problems" that stem from a dispute between local clubs about voting rights within the Kuwait Football Association (KFA). The suspension was last temporarily lifted in December 2008 after a personal plea to Fifa from the emir.

The director general of the Olympic Council of Asia, Husain al Musallam, confirmed that Kuwait's football association and the affiliates are not included in the latest suspension. The KFA has been given to the end of this month to resolve the issues that have led Fifa to suspend it in the past. @Email:jcalderwood@thenational.ae