International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. (AP) (AP)
Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah of Kuwait olympics

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the global association of national Olympic committees. (AP)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended Kuwaiti athletes after the country refused entry to an Israeli official.

For the second time in five years, Kuwait was suspended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for political interference on Tuesday, leaving the Gulf country’s athletes in limbo for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Yair Davidovich, a technical delegate for the International Sports Shooting Federation (ISSF), was scheduled to supervise the Asian Shooting Championship in Kuwait November 1-12. He was denied a visa by the Kuwaiti immigration department due to being Israeli. The ISSF petitioned the IOC to revoke the event of its Olympic status in response.

“The denial of a visa is against the non-discrimination principle of the Olympic Charter,” said the IOC. “The Olympic Charter must apply for all Olympic Qualification competitions.”

Kuwait’s national Olympic committee was suspended in order to “protect the Olympic Movement in Kuwait from undue government interference,” the IOC stated.

Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti who heads the global association of national Olympic committees, told AP on Monday that Kuwait would be suspended.

Memorial to the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics. (Flash90)

Memorial to the Israeli athletes murdered at the Munich Olympics. (Flash90)

“As a Kuwaiti I am very sad,'” Sheikh Ahmad said in an interview. “All of us are upset. It’s a very sad story.”

The suspension not only affects the shooting event, but all Kuwaiti athletes, who would be prevented from competing on behalf of their country in next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The athletes could still receive permission to compete as individuals under the Olympic flag.

Kuwait was first suspended by the IOC in 2010, but reinstated in 2012 ahead of the London Olympics after Kuwait’s ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah promised autonomy for the country’s Olympic committee and new legislation that would prevent these sorts of situations. Kuwait’s soccer association was suspended by FIFA two weeks ago for the same issue.

The Gulf States have long had difficulty reconciling their obligation to non-discrimination in international sports events with their non-recognition of Israel. In 2013, for example, Gulf broadcasters censored Israel’s name and flag at the Swimming World Cup in Doha, Qatar. In 2007, Bahrain briefly considered stripping a Kenyan-born runner of his Bahraini citizenship as punishment for winning the 2007 Tiberius Marathon in Israel. Arab and Iranian athletes also routinely drop out of athletic events to avoid competing against Israelis.

By: AP and Sara Abramowicz, United with Israel

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