Kosovo to compete in Olympics at Rio 2016 after IOC recognition

Majlinda Kelmendi
Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi competed for Albania at the London Olympics in 2012

A Kosovo team will compete at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio after the nation gained full membership of the International Olympic Committee.

It was confirmed as the 205th national Olympic committee at the IOC session in Monte Carlo on Tuesday.

Kosovo declared independence in 2008 from Serbia, which does not recognise it as a state.

The Serbian Olympic committee protested when Kosovo was granted provisional IOC recognition in October.

It is recognised as a country by 108 of the 193 United Nations member states and is a full member of six Olympic sports federations: table tennis, archery, judo, sailing, weightlifting and modern pentathlon.

The IOC began reviewing the Kosovo case five years ago but the request to field a team at London 2012 was rejected.

Majlinda Kelmendi was the only athlete from Kosovo to compete in London, where she represented Albania in judo.

"Congratulations Kosovo and all athletes," said Prime Minister Hashim Thaci. "Our flag will wave at the Olympic Games in Rio and will be held by Majlinda."

IOC president Thomas Bach said that Serbian Olympic Committee president Vlade Divac had not been happy with the initial IOC decision but accepted it "in the interest of the athletes" and in a gesture of sportsmanship.

However, Serbian sports minister Vanja Udovicic criticised the IOC's decision to give full membership to Kosovo, which is not a member of the United Nations.

Udovicic said: "I regret that sport has become a field for politically motivated decisions and it will be very difficult to preserve the basic principles of sport in the future after this kind of precedent."

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