The Soviet National Olympic Committee, bowing to the inevitable, on Friday endorsed requests from the three Baltic republics to restore their independent status in the Olympic Games.
The applications by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia must still be approved by the International Olympic Committee.
“Now that the republics have been recognized by more than 30 countries, we simply cannot allow our athletes to appear in Soviet teams,” said Arnold Gren, president of the Estonian Olympic Committee.
Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania were independent members of the IOC until 1940, when they were forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union. Since then, athletes from all three republics have competed for Soviet teams, providing a relatively large number of stars for the Soviet Union, which had dominated many world sports for decades.
The Soviet Union has won 1,212 medals since it started competing in the Olympics in 1952, more than any other country. Most members of the Soviet basketball team are Lithuanians. Estonia has produced top sailors; Latvia, bobsledders and lugers.
The executive board of the IOC is scheduled to discuss granting membership to the Baltic republics in Berlin next month. Any decision would have to be ratified by the full IOC at its next general session in Albertville, France, scheduled a week before the Winter Games next February.
IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said earlier this week there is a strong possibility the republics will compete as independent nations in the Summer Olympics in Barcelona next year.