(ATR) The IOC and the Faroe Islands will be meeting this month in what a Faroese sports leader calls "an important first step" in the Faroes’ quest for IOC recognition.
The exact date for the meeting has not been finalized, according to Jon Hestoy, the vice president of the Faroese Confederation of Sports and Olympic Committee (FCSOC). But he tells Around the Rings that the IOC Director of NOC Relations Pere Miró and IOC Head of Institutional Relations & Governance Jérôme Poivey are scheduled to attend, along with Danish NOC President Niels Nygaard, who also sits on the European Olympic Committees Executive Committee.
The FCSOC launched its latest campaign to get into the Olympics earlier this year. If it succeeds, it would be the culmination of an ambition that is 40 years old.
But it appears the IOC and the Faroes might be coming into the meeting with different expectations.
Hestoy says the IOC gave "a very clear no" to the Faroe Islands being recognized following a series of meetings in 2014. The IOC, in a statement to ATR, says nothing has changed from those meetings.
"It was mutually understood and agreed that the IOC was not in a condition to recognize an NOC for the Faroe Islands under the current circumstances (i.e. in view of the current rules of the Olympic Charter and the current status of the Faroe Islands)."
Despite that decision, the IOC says both it and the Danish NOC "were ready to explore any concrete projects submitted by the Faroese Confederation of Sports to support specifically the development of sport and the athletes in the Faroe Islands."
For the Faroese, however, the issue is about which Olympic Charter should be used to decide their application—the one in force when they first applied or the later one the IOC used to deny recognition.
Hestoy says Swiss law is on the side of the Faroese.
"According to CAS, according to Swiss law, you have to treat an application by the rules that are in place at the time when either the application comes in or it is signed off and when I looked through the paper trail we do have almost a handful of letters saying your application is okay, your logo is okay, you will be put forward to the next executive meeting and then to the session. And then suddenly in January ‘93, we got a letter saying we are going to change the Olympic Charter. Could you please send us a letter proving you are an independent country."
Despite the apparent legal strength of their case, Hestoy says the FCSOC "prefers to go through this campaign by making friends". He believes the best way to solve the problem is to sit around a table and talk it through.
He also thinks the case for the Faroes is so strong that going to court will be unnecessary.
"As for international status, we are by all accounts an independent, self-governing country. 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. We are also recognized by international organizations such as UNESCO and the International Maritime Organisation, among others. Kosovo achieved Olympic recognition in 2014, but it is not recognized by the UN, or many members of the international community."
Hestoy says that the Faroes’ sporting credentials are also very strong.
"The FCSOC has been in existence for almost 80 years as a completely independent organization and, since 1979, we have become members in our own right in eight IFs as well as the International Paralympic Committee. All we ask is for fair treatment and for sense to prevail."
The inclusion of Danish NOC President Nygaard, who is on the EOC executive committee, in the meeting this month could help the Faroes clear up another issue tied to the European Games.
"At the upcoming European Games in 2019 there are, among other sports, four European Championships in which we have full international membership (badminton, table tennis, judo and archery). But our athletes will be excluded in participating in these championships as they are now a part of the European Games, and because we have no Olympic status," Hestoy said.
"Our lack of Olympic recognition also means that we are unable to become signatories to the WADA Code and have a fully functioning anti-doping operation. This doping limbo is further compounded by the fact that Anti-Doping Denmark only has jurisdiction over our athletes around the period of the Olympic Games."
Hestoy doesn’t expect a quick decision by the IOC on whether to admit the Faroe Islands. While he admits there have been long periods where the Faroese "have done nothing about" the issue, he says they are in for the long haul this time.
"This is something we’re going to work on until we have a result, which obviously in our point of view is until we get IOC recognition."
Written and reported by Gerard Farek
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