The Afghanistan team’s status for the 2024 Paris Olympics was put in question Wednesday by the IOC over growing frustration with the Taliban blocking access to sport for women and girls.
The International Olympic Committee said it “continues to be extremely concerned” about the sports situation in Afghanistan despite its repeated calls for action.
Noting its “right to take any further measures,” the IOC cautioned that “specific details for the participation of the Afghan (national Olympic committee) delegation and team” for the Paris Games have not yet been decided.
The IOC could suspend Afghanistan’s Olympic body for government interference in the independent management of sport, while supporting the country’s athletes to compete in Paris as an independent team under the Olympic flag and anthem. That was how Kuwaitis competed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The issue was discussed Wednesday at an IOC executive board meeting which also took updates on problems with Olympic officials in India, Indonesia, Iran and Guatemala.
A call between Olympic officials and Afghanistan’s recently appointed director of physical education and sports had led to some written guarantees, IOC director for NOC relations James McLeod said in an online briefing.
Still, the IOC said allowing some access to sports for girls at primary schools was “a first step but reiterated that this remains insufficient.”
A number of women and girls who once played a variety of sports told The Associated Press in January they had been intimidated by the Taliban with visits and phone calls warning them not to engage in their sports.
The Afghanistan issue is next scheduled to be discussed in October at an IOC board meeting held in Mumbai, India, soon after the Asian Games.
Afghanistan sent five athletes, including one woman, to the Tokyo Olympics, which ended in August 2021 one week before the Taliban retook control of the country.
The IOC has cautioned Olympic sports bodies about letting Indonesia host their events, McLeod confirmed.
Indonesia was stripped by FIFA in March of hosting the men’s soccer Under-20 World Cup just seven weeks before it started because the country did not want Israel to play.
Israel had qualified for the tournament nine months earlier but does not have formal diplomatic relations with Indonesia, which is the world’s most populous Muslim-majority nation.
McLeod said the IOC advised sports bodies “to be very careful in their allocation of events” to nations which restricted access to athletes.
Indonesia is due to host the World Beach Games in Bali in August for the global umbrella group of national Olympic bodies, known as ANOC. McLeod said the IOC told ANOC to “look at this situation very closely.”
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine started 16 months ago, the IOC has faced questions about letting Russian members take part in Olympic business.
Yelena Isinbayeva, the two-time Olympic pole vault champion and long-time Russian army officer, has now been cleared by the IOC ethics commission to continue using the IOC membership she has had since 2016.
e IOC had said in March her membership status was to be evaluated after Olympic sports bodies were advised that athletes who supported the war in Ukraine or were contracted to the military should not get neutral status to compete internationally.
Without saying Isinbayeva’s name on Wednesday, IOC spokesman Mark Adams said the “past contractual situation” of Russians prior to the war starting on Feb. 24 last year should not be taken into consideration.
“All the necessary work has been carried out to the satisfaction of the ethics commission,” Adams said, without clarifying if Isinbayeva has renounced her army rank.