The International Olympic Committee agreed yesterday to allow Iraq to participate in the Games, reversing itself after Baghdad pledged to ensure the independence of its Olympics panel.
The decision followed last-minute talks between Iraqi officials and the IOC ahead of today's deadline to submit competitors' names for track and field events. The Olympics begin Aug. 8.
Iraq's National Olympic Committee was dissolved by the government in May, prompting the IOC to suspend the country from the Olympics for political interference. The IOC had insisted the old committee be reinstated even though four members were kidnapped two years ago and their fates remain unknown.
A compromise was worked out after mediators from Germany and China became involved in talks, and Iraq pledged to hold free elections for its national Olympic committee under international observation. Iraq is expected to send two athletes to Beijing to compete in track and field. The decision came too late for five hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing, and weightlifting as the deadline to submit names for those sports expired last week.
Internet sites still blockedOlympic organizers are backtracking on a promise about coverage of the Beijing Games, keeping in place blocks on Internet sites in the Main Press Center and venues where reporters will work. The blocked sites will make it difficult for journalists to retrieve information, particularly on political and human rights stories the government dislikes.
Yesterday, sites such as Amnesty International or any search for a site with Tibet in the address could not be opened at the Main Press Center, which will house about 5,000 journalists when the games open Aug. 8.
In bidding for the Games seven years ago, Chinese officials said the media would have "complete freedom to report." And in April, Hein Verbruggen and Kevan Gosper - senior IOC members overseeing the games - said they'd received assurances from Chinese officials that Internet censorship would be lifted for journalists during the games. Gosper, however, issued a clarification yesterday, saying the open Internet extended only to sites that related to "Olympic competitions."
"The regulatory changes we negotiated with BOCOG and which required Chinese legislative changes were to do with reporting on the Games," Gosper added, using the acronym for the Olympic organizers. "This didn't necessarily extend to free access and reporting on everything that relates to China."