- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) The IOC took the first steps yesterday toward having athletes from Afghanistan compete at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
IOC president Jacques Rogge said he would send Fekrou Kidane, a senior Olympic diplomat, to Kabul as soon as Afghanistan achieves political stability and forms a stable government.
Rogge added, however, that there was no chance of Afghan athletes taking part in the Salt Lake City Winter Games in February.
"We are not in favor of tokenism and sending one or two Afghan athletes to Salt Lake City just because of the symbol," he said. "Athletes must be trained, must have a good, decent level. That, of course, is impossible today in Afghanistan."
Afghanistan is the only country barred from the Olympics by the International Olympic Committee. The Afghan committee was suspended in 1999, in part because of the Taliban regime's policy of prohibiting women from competing in sports.
But now with the Taliban removed from power, Olympic officials hope that Afghanistan can be reinstated and send a team including women to Athens.
"If things evolve well, it would be very nice to have Afghan athletes in Athens," Rogge said. "Afghanistan is the only national Olympic committee today we have not recognized out of 200 in the world. To have all the NOCs in Athens would be a dream."
Rogge spoke at a news conference at the close of a two-day meeting of the IOC's ruling executive board.
Kidane, an Ethiopian who served as former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch's chief of staff, has been the IOC's chief contact with the United Nations.
On Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution supporting an "Olympic Truce" during the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake Games.
However, the resolution stops short of calling for a military ceasefire, a move the Bush administration has ruled out as it continues its war in Afghanistan.
"We are not wanting states to do things that are not achievable," Rogge said. "The IOC is a sports organization. It cannot pretend to be bringing peace or enforcing peace. We are just airing a symbolic voice."
But Rogge said he would appeal for a global truce in the coming weeks and at the opening of the Salt Lake Games.
The IOC board received a report by video link from Salt Lake City organizers, including an update on the security measures in place since the September 11 attacks.
"We are totally reassured about the organization of the games and the security measures," Rogge said. "We've never had such a level of security at an Olympics before. You can never guarantee 100 percent security but everything that is humanly possible has been done."
Rogge repeated that the IOC has been assured that no teams or athletes will stay away from the Games.
"I can say that all NOCs will participate," he said. "No one will be missing. All the athletes will participate."
Rogge said the IOC had also had assurances that no teams or athletes would be blocked from entering the United States.
"The U.S. government has guaranteed free access and free passage of all accredited members of the Olympic family," he said. "This was confirmed to me during my recent visit to Washington."
Rogge played down warnings by Salt Lake organizing chief Mitt Romney that the Games will be affected by problems with transportation and computer technology two areas which plagued the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
"Transportation and technology are always difficult issues in every Olympic host city," Rogge said. "I understand the legitimate concerns of the organizing committee. We are confident everything will be OK."
On the delayed preparations for the Athens Games, Rogge said, "Things are going better, but they are not yet perfect."

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