February 22, 2019 / 12:53 AM / 2 months ago

IOC urges India isolation after Pakistani athletes denied visas

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee have suspended all Indian applications to host future events and urged international sports federations not to stage competitions in the country after two Pakistanis were denied visas to compete in New Delhi.

FILE PHOTO: Members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), talk at the end of the 133rd IOC session in Buenos Aires, Argentina October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The denial of entry visas for two shooters due to take part in a World Cup event this weekend followed last week’s attack by a Pakistan-based militant group in the disputed region of Kashmir, which killed at least 40 paramilitary police.

India has accused its neighbor of not doing enough to control the militant groups responsible for the Kashmir attacks. Pakistan has denied any involvement.

The IOC said the refusal of visas for competitors went against the principles of the Olympic charter relating to discrimination and political interference from the host country.

“Since becoming aware of the issue, and in spite of intense last-minute ... efforts ... and discussions with the Indian government authorities, no solution has been found to allow the Pakistani delegation to enter India in time to compete,” the IOC statement said.

“As a result, the IOC Executive Board also decided to suspend all discussions with the Indian NOC and government regarding the potential applications for hosting future sports and Olympic-related events in India,” it said.

The body also urged all international sports federations not to hold events in India, or grant hosting rights to the country for future competitions, until the government had provided “clear written guarantees” to ensure access for all athletes.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) last year laid out an ambitious roadmap to host the Youth Olympics in 2026, the Asian Games in 2030 and the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2032.

“It’s a big setback for sports in the country,” IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta told Reuters.

“We’ve been in constant touch with the government, trying to explain to them and convince them to grant visas to the Pakistani shooters. This is really unfortunate.”

Last year, a boxer from Kosovo, which India does not recognize as an independent state, was denied visa for the women’s world championships in New Delhi.

Boxing’s governing body AIBA criticized the decision and warned it might reopen the bidding process for the 2021 men’s championship due to take place in India.

“It’s really unfortunate that it happened again,” Mehta said.

“I spoke to IOC officials last night and the impression I got is that there could be more trouble for us. We at IOA will discuss the crisis with the government and try to find a way out.”

The Pakistani shooters were scheduled to take part in the 25m pistol event and the IOC said two spots at next year’s Tokyo Olympics that had been up for grabs in that competition had been revoked.

The International Shooting Sport Federation said on Wednesday it faced “an urgent situation as Pakistani athletes cannot get entry visas to participate in the competition” because of the Kashmir attack.

The IOC said Olympic berths would still be on the line in other events.

“The IOC restricted the withdrawal of recognition as an Olympic qualification event to the 25m rapid fire pistol competition in which the two Pakistani athletes were supposed to participate,” it said.

“This happened in the interest of the other 500 athletes from 61 countries participating in the other events who are already in India for their competition.”

Editing by Paul Tait and Nick Mulvenney

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