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  • Catalonia Has 'All it Needs' For Tokyo Team


    (ATR) Catalan Sport officials tell Around the Rings they are prepared to send an Olympic team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, as the region’s autonomy remains unsettled.

    Catalan supporters (Wikimedia Commons)
    Gerard Esteva, president of the Union of Catalan Sport Federations, said to ATR that the region has training facilities, Olympic programs, and a robust budget already set up for athletes.

    “Therefore, we have all we need to be in Japan [for] 2020,” Esteva said.

    Esteva wrote to the IOC on September 27, days before the disputed Catalonia independence referendum stating it would initiate recognition proceedings if independence was declared. An IOC spokesperson acknowledged the letter to ATR saying “the IOC would reply accordingly”. The full text of the letter can be found here.

    The spokesperson did not respond to questions about if the IOC would accept the proceedings, or if the Spanish Olympic Committee (COE) had written to the IOC. Last week NOC relations director of the IOC Pere Miró told ATR, "we must wait to see how the situation in Catalonia evolves" before weighing in.

    A spokesperson for the COE said in a statement to ATR that multiple court rulings in Spain in 2004 and 2008 say that no body is permitted to be called an “Olympic Committee” outside of the COE.

    “Likewise, the Spanish Sports Law of 1990 recognizes the exclusivity of the [COE],” the spokesperson added.

    Yesterday, Carles Puigdemont, the president of the Catalan government, said that the region had earned the right to declare independence from Spain. Now, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is exerting pressure on the region to clarify its intentions. International reports suggest Spain could trigger Article 155 of its constitution to remove Catalonia’s regional autonomy.

    Chapter 4 of the Olympic Charter outlines the pre-conditions an Olympic Committee needs to satisfy before it can be recognized by the IOC. Included in this is recognition from the international community, and the “name of an NOC must correspond to the territorial limits and tradition of its country.”

    Gerard Esteva (Wikimedia Commons)
    Regardless, Esteva says Spanish sport officials have communicated that if Catalonian independence comes to fruition, “we can be recognized without problem from the Spanish side.” Esteva says the process used for the Kosovo Olympic Committee will be a precedent for any Catalan recognition attempts.

    “Kosovo didn’t have international state recognition, but the international sport community (federations and IOC) recognized the committee nevertheless,” Estreva said. “This gives us confidence in the international sport community.”

    The UFEC also hopes to leverage its resources and legacy from the Barcelona 1992 Olympics to persuade international sport federations and the IOC into accepting its cause. Currently Catalonia is recognized by 21 international federations, but none are Olympic sports. Esteva says the budget for the UFEC is currently five times the size of that of the COE, “more than 450 workers, an official university, and an important foundation that frequently works with other European Olympic Committees.”

    “We have prepared our sport facilities in order to offer our athletes the best quality of training,” Esteva said. “We have Olympic programs for our teams, as well as a budget for this all to become a reality.”

    Written by Aaron Bauer

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