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Thursday, July 24, 2008
Aaron Zelinsky's "Let Iraq Play"

We received an excellent submission from Aaron Zelinsky, a rising 2L at Yale Law School, concerning today's IOC decision to ban Iraq from Olympic participation.

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Let Iraq Play

After months of public outcry, with the Olympics mere weeks away, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) took dramatic action. Its principled stand: banning seven Iraqi athletes from the 2008 Summer Games.

The IOC ban was unnecessary, counterproductive, and hypocritical. The IOC should reverse its decision and allow Iraq's seven Olympic athletes to compete.

The IOC banned the Iraqi delegation under section 28(9) of the Olympic Charter, which authorizes sanction when “any governmental or other body causes the activity of the [National Olympic Committee] or the making or expression of its will to be hampered.” Iraq's Olympic Crime: Prime Minister Maliki disbanded the Iraq National Olympic Committee in May and appointed an interim committee, alleging corruption and vote stealing.

The IOC ban is unnecessary. The Olympic Charter does not proscribe automatic suspension for governmental interference with a National Olympic Committee (NOC). Rather, section 28(9) declares that the IOC executive board “may take any appropriate decisions for the protection of the Olympic Movement in the country of an NOC.” The draconian club of disqualification is one the IOC wields voluntarily.

The IOC ban is counterproductive. Banning Iraq will hardly lead to the “protection of the Olympic Movement” in Iraq, as called for by the Olympic Charter. Rather, it will likely further discourage athletes and fans. The ban is particularly sad in light of the Cinderella-story of the 2004 Iraqi Olympic Soccer Team, which provided one of the few moments of national unity and hope during troubled times.

The IOC ban is hypocritical. The same body that proclaims the need to uphold the “principle of not wanting sports and politics to mix” allowed Uday Hussein to serve as the head of the Iraq National Olympic Committee during his father's dictatorial reign. On Uday's teams, athletic failure -- or early retirement -- was punished with whippings and torture, despite the IOC's commitment to “safeguarding the dignity of the individual.”

If the IOC were truly committed to individual dignity, it would allow the Iraqi athletes to compete, regardless of national bureaucratic squabbling. The IOC should reverse its unnecessary ban and let Iraq play.

Aaron Zelinsky is a member of the Yale Law School Class of 2010


So, by the links cited:

1) the Committee was opposed by the government

2) Committee members were kidnapped and/or resigned

3) The Committee was explicitly replaced by the Iraqi government, with the immediate response from the IOC that this was "serious interference from the Iraqi government."

4) The Committee as reconstituted was clearly not Independent of the Government, which is required by IOC rules.

5) The IOC notified the country of this in May, suspended the "new" Olympic committee on 4 June—seven weeks ago—and gave the Iraqis until yesterday to remedy the situation.

6) They didn't, leaving the Committee in violation of IOC rules.

The only question left should be, "What's your problem?" They didn't ban the athletes per se; they appropriately and per IOC rules rejected the Iraqi Olympic Committee as not independent of the government.

Blogger Ken Houghton -- 7/24/2008 6:15 PM  

Hypocritical? probably...

but hypocracy has run in the IOC bloodline for quite some time, so im not surprised...

Should they have used its mighty rulebook to bounce Iraq from participation while under the rule of the sadistic parasite that was Uday Hussein? Sure, but for some reason it was in the IOC's best interest to take no action... someone benefited somewhere....

As for the situation we are in now, it would seem that the IOC are within their authority to ban Iraq for failure to comply with IOC regs...

the question is... Cui bono?, who benefits....

Blogger Jimmy H -- 7/24/2008 8:55 PM  

Let the Iraq athletes play!!

Set aside politics! This is the Olympics. The ban was downright unnecessary.

Blogger Edgar -- 7/25/2008 2:53 AM  

Mr. Zelinsky's crisp and cogent argument illustrates how sports and politics make for strange bed/fellows.

Let the Iraqis play!

Moshe Scholnick in Jerusalem

Anonymous mys -- 7/26/2008 12:26 PM  

they should let iraq play! soccer is the only thing that unites that country. when iraq plays soccer, all become one. let them play the sport they love and dream

Anonymous doran -- 7/29/2008 10:55 PM  

Note that the Iranian Olympic committee is able to make detailed decisions about what events the Iranian athletes should boycott based on how much Israeli involvement in those events there are.

So what is the conclusion? It is ok to be highly politicized and completely undermine the spirit of the Olympics as long as you don't have direct connections to the government?

Blogger Joshua -- 8/12/2008 11:35 AM  

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