Jakarta: Athletes from Kuwait will be able to compete under their own flag in the Asian Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) provisionally lifted the country’s suspension, which had been in place for nearly three years.
The Asian Games open on Saturday in Jakarta.
The Olympic Council of Asia, the governing body of Olympic sports for the region, said in a statement on Friday it was “delighted with today’s decision” taken by the IOC’s executive board.
The OCA statement said this will allow “Kuwaiti athletes to take part in the 18th Asian Games under the flag and anthem of Kuwait”.
The suspension was imposed after the IOC accused Kuwait’s government of interfering in Olympic sport in the country.
The IOC says Kuwait’s government has promised “fresh elections” for sports organisation boards and also given a “clear undertaking ... not to obstruct the work” of the Kuwait Olympic Committee. The suspension can be re-imposed in October if the IOC board isn’t satisfied with the changes.
The suspension meant Kuwaiti athletes at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro had to compete under the title of “Independent Olympic Athlete.”
When Fehaid Al Deehani won a gold medal in double trap shooting, the Olympic anthem played and the Olympic flag was raised.
There was no repeat at this year’s Winter Olympics because no Kuwaitis competed.
Kuwait said its delegation at the Asian Games consists of 40 athletes and officials.
Meanwhile, the joint Korean women’s basketball team recorded their first loss at the Asian Games on Friday but their coach insisted the players have put aside their national identities and are determined to win as a united squad.
A 200-strong army of Korean fans — sporting T-shirts bearing the unified Korean flag and the slogan “One dream, one Korea” — cheered on the team, fresh from a thunderous win against hosts Indonesia on Wednesday.
But the drums and chants were in the end not enough and the team went down to Taiwan 87-85 in their second league encounter.
Nevertheless, Korea’s assistant coach Ha Sook-rye said there is a feeling of togetherness among the players.
“Everything is fine and we have a really good team,” she said.
“I don’t know what people feel but it is one team and we never think about North or South Korea.”
Chief coach Lee Moon-Kyu said better communication between the players would improve their chances in the basketball.
“Communication is a problem because they were short of practice time. There was just two weeks of preparation before coming here,” Lee, who hails from South Korea, said after the loss.
“Ro Suk-Yong played really well for us. Among the players there is no other feeling than to play well together. So with more on-court time they will improve,” he said of his side, who will play India next on Monday.
South Korea are the defending champions in women’s basketball, defeating China on home turf at the Incheon Games in 2014.
North and South Korea are also fielding united teams in canoeing and rowing at the Asian Games in the latest sign of thawing relations on the troubled peninsula.
China’s women battered their Japanese counterparts 105-73 in their group match. China crushed minnows Thailand by a margin of 68 points in their group opener, but Japan were undoubtedly one of the toughest rivals at the tournament following victories over China in the 2015 Asian Championships final and the 2017 Asia Cup semi-finals.