(ATR) Faroe Islands sports leaders say they have a strong case to present to the IOC and are targeting inclusion for the Tokyo Olympics.
The self-governing region of Denmark competes in the Olympics under the Danish flag. It is a founding member of the International Paralympic Committee and has competed in every summer Paralympics since 1984.
At the launch in London on Thursday, the Faroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee unveiled a campaign brochure which outlines the sporting, cultural and political arguments to support its participation in the Olympics under its own flag.
Confederation vice president Jon Hestoy told reporters that the region had been frustrated in its attempts to gain Olympic recognition over the past 40 years of trying.
"We are in no-man’s land, Olympic limbo. We are nowhere," he said.
But he stressed that this Olympic quest was a more serious endeavor, backed up by governmental support, the Danish National Olympic Committee, other Nordic NOCs and "99 percent" of the 50,498 population of the islands.
"We have done some tries and had the door slammed in our face. We don’t think it is fair. We think the Faroe Islands should be recognized by the IOC," Hestoy told the briefing, pointing to its wealth of sporting infrastructure and success in international sport.
"We have decided to start a process now and stay in it until we get Olympic recognition… preferably sooner rather than later," he added.
The Faroe Islands already competes in eight sports internationally. It is recognized by the international federations for archery, badminton, football, handball, judo, swimming, table tennis and volleyball.
But its bid for Olympic recognition has hit a number of hurdles over the years, with its application put on the backburner by the IOC during periods of political upheaval in Europe over the last three decades. And a change to the Olympic Charter in 1996 made it harder for the Faroe Islands to show its autonomy from Denmark and meet tougher criteria.
The nation’s prime minister met IOC president Thomas Bach in 2015 to advance the cause, but the government and sports authorities were told that the islands didn’t fulfill the Charter’s criteria.
Recognition from the international community appears to be the problem. But Hestoy said much work has been done and wants the IOC to reconsider the Faroe Islands application.
"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 and are not part of the Schengen Area, unlike Denmark," he said.
"Importantly, we are recognised by international organisations such as UNESCO and the International Maritime Organisation so all told, we believe we have a very strong case to take to the IOC."
The islands compete internationally in four of the sports on the program of next year’s 2nd European Games in Minsk, Belarus. But only the 50 members of the European Olympic Committees will participate.
Yet, he said, "we are treated like old friends" by EOC officials, some of whom had told him "how come you are not a member?".
"We really feel the Olympic spirit would be to let us in. Give our athletes the chance to compete at the Olympic Games," he said, adding that it wasn’t about being on some "gravy train" to enrich the Faroe Islands’ sporting movement.
"We think the situation with the IOC is limiting our athletes and development of our sports."
After Kosovo’s successful application for Olympic membership, he said the Faroe Islands was not part of any "great flood" of bids to be recognized.
The confederation has filed several applications to international sports federations for recognition, and talks are also taking place with the Institute of National Anti-Doping Organisations to further the campaign.
"I’m passionate about it. The IOC can decide who they let in or not. I believe the Olympic spirit and fairness is something we can all relate to," he said.
Crucially, Hestoy fears the Faroe Islands may be scrubbed off the global sporting map unless Olympic recognition comes due to transfer of allegiance rules impacting promising Faroe Islands athletes.
"Everybody wants to compete in the Olympics… everything else is silver and bronze medals," Hestoy said, telling of one athlete who threatened he might switch nationality if the problem wasn’t solved.
"It’s really pulling the heart out of these kids."
He added: "It might be the worst-case scenario. I am confident stating our case and telling our story that they [the IOC] will see the light.
"We have a really good story, we have athletes, results and a country crazy about sports and we are building facilities like mad."
The Faroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee is planning meetings with the IOC, EOC and ANOC in the coming months to present its vision.
"The dream would be Tokyo," he said, acknowledging that it may not be realistic. "We work on this project until we succeed."
Reported by Mark Bisson
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