ATR Extra: Faroes Push to End Olympic Sporting Limbo

(ATR) A campaign is under way to get the Faroe Islands into the Olympic Games.

(ATR) The Faroe Islands is tired of being in an Olympic "no-man’s land" and is pushing to be recognized by the IOC.

The Faroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee (FCSOC) launched its latest campaign to get into the Olympics this week. If it succeeds, it would be the culmination of an ambition that is 40 years old.

From a sporting standpoint, the Faroes’ case is strong. A founding member of the International Paralympic Committee, the self-governing region of Denmark has competed in every Paralympics since 1984. Faroese athletes have won 13 medals and recorded 11 world records during that time.

The Faroe Islands has been a member of FIFA since 1988 and eight of its sporting federations belong to international federations. There are 23 sports in the Faroes that have their own sporting federation.

FCSOC vice president Jon Hestoy adds that 18,000 of the Faroe Islands population of 50,000 belong to a sports club.There are 20 sports halls spread around the islands, with 22 full soccer pitches and more than 100 smaller FIFA pitches, which are used for multiple sports. Sports in the Faroes are 100 percent self-funded, including all anti-doping activities.

But it’s not only about the sport. The government of the Faroe Islands is unanimous in its support of the Olympic bid. Three ministers briefed journalists on the bid on Saturday and were adamant that on this particular issue there is no political disagreement.

Poul Michelsen, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, says the issue is not a political one, adding the "Olympic ideal is the only argument to be a part of it".

The government of Denmark is also among those who support the Faroes’ Olympic bid.

"The Danish National Olympic Committee is fully behind us, as are other Nordic NOCs," says Hestoy. "We have our own language and control all key domestic matters including education, tax, trade and fisheries. We also have our own Parliament, flag and passport."

So why are the Faroes in what Hestoy calls a "no-man’s land"?

It has to do with a change in the IOC charter. Before 1995, countries' overseas territories and other dependencies were allowed to qualify for the Olympics on their own, since many are self-governing and technically not "part of" the countries they belong to. But since then, the rules have limited recognition to independent states recognized by the international community.

There were ten such territories that were grandfathered in under the new rules. More importantly for the Faroes, there are three countries – Taiwan, Palestine and Kosovo – that are not members of the United Nations but are in the Olympics. So there is room for the IOC to make an exception for the Faroe Islands.

Travel and accommodation paid for by theFaroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee.

Written by Gerard Farek in Torshavn

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