Spain reverses stance on Kosovo athletes in the country
MADRID (AP) — The Spanish government has decided to grant athletes from Kosovo the same rights as other nationalities when participating in international competitions held in Spain.
A joint statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Spanish Olympic Committee on Wednesday welcomed the decision, which comes after Spain prohibited the use of Kosovo symbols during the Karate World Championships in Madrid last week. The country's flag and name were not displayed, being replaced by the initials of the World Karate Federation.
"The Spanish Government will provide the Kosovan sports delegations competing in Spain with the relevant visa and will authorize them to use their own national symbols, anthem and flag, in accordance with Olympic protocol," the IOC statement said. "This will ensure that the athletes of Kosovo can participate under the same conditions as all the other athletes from the 206 National Olympic Committees recognized by the IOC."
The statement said the decision by the Spanish Government was communicated to the IOC by the president of the country's Olympic committee, Alejandro Blanco, and was supported by Spain Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
The Spanish government had earlier said it never denied visas to Kosovo athletes, and that it had done everything to allow them to compete in Spain despite not recognizing the country's independence.
Spain is one of the few European countries that do not recognize the former province which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.