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IOC lifts suspension on India hosting Olympic sports events

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The IOC has lifted a suspension on India hosting Olympic-related sports events imposed in February after two athletes from Pakistan were denied visas to compete. International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said Thursday that India's government gave assurances to respect the Olympic principle of non-discrimination.

India promised to give visa entry "for all athletes who want to participate in the relevant Olympic events or qualifying events or in sporting events," Bach said at a news conference after a two-day executive board meeting.

In February, the IOC withdrew the Olympic qualification status of a shooting World Cup event intended to qualify two athletes for the 2020 Tokyo Games. Two Pakistani athletes had wanted to participate in the 25-meter rapid-fire pistol event.

The IOC had also advised Olympic sports governing bodies not to choose India as a competition host until the dispute was resolved. In a two-year dispute over sports broadcasting rights in the Middle East, Bach said the IOC wanted to protect its commercial partner beIN Sports. The Qatari broadcaster has bought Middle East and North African rights for each Olympics from 2018 through 2024.

BeIN's broadcast signals of soccer competitions, including the World Cup and Champions League, have been pirated from within Saudi Arabia since 2017, when regional rivals began an economic and transport blockade of Qatar.

Bach said the IOC was "in contact with both sides. We will also make all the necessary efforts in the future." The political dimension of the IOC's work will see Bach speak to the G-20 summit of world leaders next week in Osaka, Japan.

Bach said he was invited to make a speech by the host nation, which hosts the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. At the previous G-20 meeting, in Buenos Aires last December, FIFA President Gianni Infantino made a speech at the invitation of Argentina President Mauricio Macri, the former president of Boca Juniors soccer club.

On World Refugee Day, the IOC said Thursday it is financially supporting 37 refugee athletes training for the Tokyo Olympics. "We can say with confidence that it will be bigger than the team from Rio," said Bach, referring to the 10-member refugee team which competed at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Those 10 are still active, aiming to qualify for selection next June under team leader Tegla Loroupe, the Kenyan former women's marathon world record holder. The refugee status of all 37 is confirmed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and are living in host countries worldwide including Australia, Brazil, Israel and the Netherlands, the IOC said.

They come from Afghanistan, Cameroon, Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria, and are competing in track and field, badminton, boxing, judo, karate, swimming, taekwondo and weightlifting.

"In this very difficult context we want to send a very strong signal of hope," Bach said.

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