The International Olympic Committee agreed Tuesday to allow Iraq to participate in the Beijing Games, reversing itself after Baghdad pledged to ensure the independence of its national Olympics panel.
The decision followed last-minute talks between Iraqi officials and the IOC before today’s deadline to submit competitors’ names for track and field events. The Olympics begin Aug. 8.
Iraq is expected to send two athletes to Beijing to compete in track and field. The decision came too late for five other hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting. The deadline to submit names for those sports was last week.
Iraq’s National Olympic Committee was dissolved by the Baghdad government in May, prompting the IOC to suspend the country from the Games for political interference.
The IOC had insisted that the old committee be reinstated, even though four members were kidnapped two years ago. Their fates remain unknown.
The agreement worked out Tuesday calls for Iraq to hold free elections for its National Olympic Committee under international observation.
“The National Olympic Committee will have fair elections before the end of November,” said Pere Miro, head of the IOC’s department for relations with national Olympic committees.
In the meantime, Iraq’s Olympic organization will be run by an interim committee proposed by its national sports federations and approved by the IOC, he said.