Spain loses weightlifting championships, reason: Kosovo

Spain has lost the hosting rights to a major continental weightlifting competition because of its political stance over Kosovo.

The news comes only a few days after Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke out against athletes being barred from competing by politicians.

Bach warned that if diplomatic solutions could not be found for such situations the Olympic Movement should "show our teeth by other means and show that we are ready to take action".

The European Weightlifting Federation (EWF) has moved swiftly, taking its 2018 Junior and Under-23 Championships away from La Coruna in northern Spain and awarding them instead to Poland.

Spain is one of five European Union countries that do not recognize Kosovo, which declared its independence in 2008, due to concerns about the implications for its own territory, particularly in Catalonia.

Kosovo, a member of the EWF, was accepted as a member of the IOC in 2014.

Any host of an EWF event must welcome all member nations, and when concerns were raised at a meeting before the recent European Senior Championships in Romania, the EWF Executive Board decided to seek guarantees from Spain that Kosovo’s team would be given visas.


"This is all politics, and we like to think that sport is above politics," Astrit Hasani, the Kosovan treasurer of the EWF, said at the time.

Antonio Urso, President of the EWF, wrote to the Spanish Government, offering the two Ministries involved in the decision - Sport and Foreign Affairs - three weeks in which to confirm that Kosovo would be welcome to compete in La Coruna in the last week of October.

The Spanish Government failed to even reply within three weeks, so the EWF Executive Board decided, in an emergency vote by email, to drop Spain as a host nation.

That leaves Poland, whose Federation will identify the host city this week, nearly six months to organize the event.

The Spanish Weightlifting Federation had hoped for support from their Government, having made repeated efforts to resolve the issue.

Constantino Iglesias, President of the Federation, said when Urso wrote to his Government: "We want Kosovo to come, we will welcome them. 

"I have said all I can say in talking to our Sports Ministry many times."

Other recent instances of political interference undermining sporting contests have mostly involved Israel and the Islamic world, though Kosovo has also had trouble with Serbia.

Because of Iran’s state-enforced ban on competing against Israeli opponents, the head of Iran’s Wrestling Federation, former Olympic champion Rasoul Khadem, resigned last month, though reports in Iran say he has since returned to office.