Olympics-IOC unhappy with cash-driven nationality switches

LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 14 Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:38pm EDT

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland, March 14 (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday defended athletes who switched nationalities because of marriage or family reasons but said it did not "love" cash-driven passport changes.

Sections of the British media have sharply criticised the number of foreign-born athletes, including world indoor triple jump champion Yamile Aldama and team captain Tiffany Porter, in the team at the indoor athletics championships in Istanbul last week, calling them 'Plastic Brits'.

IOC President Jacques Rogge said he understood athletes who picked up a different passport because of marriage or because of the nationality of one of the parents, but said those who did it to maximise financial gain were not the same.

London will host the Olympic Games this summer and Aldama's nationality switch was approved by the IOC on Tuesday, giving the Cuban-born athlete, who also competed for Sudan and is married to a Scot, the green light to compete there.

"You have athletes who for absolutely legitimate reasons want to change nationality because they get married, get a new job, a new profession, because of studies, any of what I would call legitimate reasons," Rogge told reporters.

"Then you have the situation of athletes who come from countries where there is a support for them, but then they go to a country because there is a bigger gain to be made," he said.

"Legally we can not stop it but it does not mean that we love it. But legally you can not stop them because this is a matter of sovreignty," Rogge said at the end of a two-day executive board meeting.

Asked specifically about American-born 60 metres hurdles silver medallist Porter, who was asked to recite the opening lines of the national anthem at a news conference, Rogge said he saw no reason why she should not change nationality.

"I believe the athlete has a mother or a father who is of British nationality. There is already then a good reason maybe to switch nationality. You have to compare what is comparable."

LONDON BUDGET

Rogge also praised preparations for the London Olympics, saying he had received assurances the Games budget remained unchanged.

Britain's public finance watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, had said last week the overall budget had exceeded 9.3 billion pounds ($14.63 billion) and was closer to 11 billion.

The British government had disputed the committee's figures at the time.

"We were very happy, particularly for London," said Rogge after a progress report delivered in Lausanne by London Games chief Sebastian Coe.

"We were reassured by fact that the budget stands at 9.3 billion. There were rumours that it was different," said Rogge.

"There was no concern at the level of the IOC. It was at the level of the media," said Rogge. "We have received reassurances by LOCOG and it was confirmed again this morning."

($1 = 0.6355 British pounds) (Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Justin Palmer)

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