02 October 2012

International sport bodies act as ‘sovereignty gatekeepers’

          by  Wayne Madsen

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the World Cup-sponsoring International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), both of which have been charged with corruption at their highest levels, have been granted virtual gatekeeper duties by global political organizations, most notably the United Nations, to ascertain what nations enjoy international recognition and which do not.

The intersection between international diplomacy and sports is yet another indication of the blurring of roles and responsibilities between governments and multinational corporations, with the latter a major sponsor of the activities of the IOC and FIFA.

In 1995, the IOC tossed out its previous policy of recognizing national Olympic committees from non-independent territories and colonies. Its new rules stipulated that only members of the United Nations could participate in the Olympics. The rule was put into place after Palestine was admitted as a full member of the International Olympic Committee. There have been suggestions that Israel and its lobby in the United States used their influence to ensure the IOC adopt the new rule, but Palestine’s IOC membership was a fait accompli and could not be reversed.

In 2002, the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) adopted a new rule, also recognized by FIFA, which stated that new members had to also be members of the United Nations. England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the Faroe Islands, already members of the UEFA and FIFA, were grandfathered into the new rule. However, Kosovo and Gibraltar, candidate members, were rejected because they are not UN members. Political pressure, exercised by Serbia, contributed to the change in the rule in the case of Kosovo and regarding Gibraltar, it was such pressure from Spain, which resulted in the refusal against the accession. FIFA also felt heat from Greece and Cyprus, which were concerned about recognition of the football team from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. However, the earlier decision by the IOC nixed any hopes for Scotland, Wales, England, and Northern Ireland to compete in the Olympics as separate entities, a stumbling block for Scottish and Welsh nationalist political parties hoping to see Scotland and Wales competing in the games.

At the 2012 London Olympics, athletes from Curacao were forced to complete as independent athletes under the Olympic flag. In 2010, the Dutch territorial federation, of which Curacao was a member -- the Netherlands Antilles -- ceased to exist. In 2011, as a result of the former constituent islands not being members of the UN, the Netherlands Antilles National Olympic Committee was derecognized and the national Olympic committees of Curacao and Saint Maarten were not recognized. Aruba, a former constituent island of the Netherlands Antilles that broke away before the IOC rule change participates in the Olympics as a separate country. The national aspirations of the two self-governing Dutch territories, in addition to the overseas Dutch “municipalities” of Saba, Saint Eustatius, and Bonaire, received no sympathy from the Flemish Belgian IOC President Jacques Rogge, who, as a Belgian count invested by King Albert, likely has little or no sympathy for Flemish nationalist aspirations, including a separate Olympic team competing under the flag of Flanders.

Before the 1995 IOC rule change, teams from territories, many of which later became independent nations, participated in the Olympics. The rule change was grandfathered to allow these territories to continue to compete in the games. Therefore, there is a strange politically-contrived situation where American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Bermuda, and the British Virgin Islands can compete under their own flags at the Olympics, but full FIFA members Scotland, Wales, Macau (a Special Administrative Region of China, just a ferry ride away from IOC-recognized Chinese Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong), Saint Martin (the French side of the same Caribbean island that includes the non-FIFA and IOC recognized Dutch-speaking St. Maarten), Guadeloupe, Martinique, Tahiti, and Anguilla cannot. If this all sounds totally confusing, there is a good reason. The IOC and FIFA rules have been established in concert with neocolonialist powers, spurred on by multinational corporations, to ensure that newly-independent nations have the approval of the non-elected elites, who decide what nations will be sovereign and those that will remain subjugated.

All US territories can compete in the Olympics as separate countries except for the Northern Marianas north of Guam. They missed the 1995 IOC grandfathering deadline and have been relegated to unrecognized status by the IOC. Joining the Northern Marianas as countries and territories in IOC and FIFA recognition-sensitive or “not-to-be considered under any circumstances” status are Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, Greenland, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Zanzibar, Somaliland, Catalonia, Aland Islands, Shetland Islands, Isle of Wight, Saarema, Alderney, Gotland, Minorca, the Western Isles of Scotland, St. Pierre, and Miquelon, Niue, New Caledonia, Mayotte, French Guiana, Pohnpei, Lapland, Padania, Gozo, Occitania, Corsica, and Native Americans.

The spirit of universality, long-recognized by the IOC and FIFA, has given way to political and economic priorities. In 1933, Eretz Israel, the Jewish community living in Palestine, became a member of the IOC.

It is a sad commentary on the power that neocolonialists in supranational political and sporting organizations wield in dictating the future of aspirant nations and peoples trying to unshackle themselves from the “new world order.”