Faroe Islands PM Nielsen to push for IOC recognition

(Reuters) - The Faroe Islands will step up its bid to become members of the Olympic family rather than compete under the flag of mother country Denmark, Prime Minister Bárður á Steig Nielsen has said.

The archipelago located between Scotland and Iceland in the north Atlantic and self-governing since 1948 already competes as a soccer nation after being recognised by governing body FIFA, and has competed at the Paralympics since 1984.

Yet they have never received recognition from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Former handball player Nielsen, who took office last month said he was committed to the dream of Faroese sportsmen and women competing at future Olympics.

“I am committed to promoting Faroese sports and working for increased recognition of our great athletes and sports federations,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.

“The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing nation for over 70 years and we have fought for Olympic recognition for more than 40 years.

“Being able to compete in the Olympics and other related international competitions is a long-held dream for the Faroese nation and we believe that our case is strong.”

The Faroe Islands gained FIFA recognition in 1988 and joined UEFA in 1990 -- beating Austria 1-0 in their first-ever competitive fixture, a match played in Sweden because of the lack of grass pitches on the islands.

The soccer team has never come remotely close to qualifying for the World Cup or European Championships but there have been successes in the Paralympics, with swimmer Christina Næss winning a gold medal in Seoul in 1988.

“The Olympic family is now beginning to take notice of the strength and fairness of our unique case,” Nielsen said.

“My Government colleagues and I look forward to a positive dialogue with the International Olympic Committee in the months ahead to realise our Olympic dream and gain Olympic recognition.”

The Faroese Confederation of Sports has received support in their quest from Denmark, Sweden and Iceland but the Olympic Charter states that National Olympic Committee (NOC) recognition be granted only after recognition as an independent state.

Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Toby Davis