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No Olympics for Kosovo

No Olympics for Kosovo

The fledgling country’s EU-esque flag will not be making the rounds in London’s Olympic Stadium on June 27, RFE/RL reports, a major diasppointment to athletes like table tennis player Azari Blerta, shown above:

Kosovo had hoped to send a team of six athletes to the London 2012 Summer Games. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in May rejected the country’s application to participate in the July games.

Although 91 countries have recognized Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared its independence in 2008, it has not gained admission to the United Nations.

Malesor Gjonbalaj, an adviser to Kosovo’s minister of culture, youth, and sport, says his government feels the IOC decision was arbitrary.

"The Olympic Charter says a country must be recognized by the international community. This notion can be interpreted anyway one pleases," Gjonbalaj says.

The IOC’s decision does seem a bit arbitrary as Kosovo is already recognized by the international federations of a number of sports including table tennis, weightlifting, archery, judo, sailing, and now boxing. Soccer association FIFA recently ruled that its members could play friendly matches with Kosovo, prompting protests from the Serbian government.

On the political front the International Steering Group of 25 countries recently agreed to stop supervising Kosovo’s independence, another step toward full sovereignty. Olympic participation is clearly not limited only to universally-recognized U.N.-member states, as the Palestinian team has competed in every Olympics since 1996.

This year, judoka Maher Abu Remeleh will become the first Palestinian athlete to earn a spot at the games based on athletic prowess alone, rather than special invitation. The only Kosovar athlete in London will be Majlinda Kelmendi — also in judo — who will fight on behalf of Albania.