Kuwait sues IOC for $1 billion over Olympic ban

A general view of the Kuwait Olympics Committee and Sports Federation in Kuwait City in this June 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Tariq AlAli

KUWAIT (Reuters) - Kuwait is seeking $1 billion in damages from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for banning the country from international competitions, state news agency KUNA reported.

The IOC suspended Kuwait in October 2015, accusing the government of interference in its national Olympic Committee. The ban is unlikely to be lifted before the Rio Games which start on Aug. 5, meaning Kuwaiti athletes would only be allowed to compete under the Olympic flag.

Kuwait’s minister of information and youth said late on Wednesday that Kuwait “is taking the International Olympic Committee to the Swiss courts for damages amounting to $1 billion as a result of the IOC’s unjustifiable decision to suspend the Kuwait Olympic Committee,” KUNA said.

“It is totally unacceptable that Kuwait is treated in this unfair way and is barred from international sports activities without conducting an appropriate investigation,” the minister, Sheikh Salman al-Hmoud al-Sabah, was quoted as saying at a banquet on Wednesday night.

The IOC had given Kuwait until Oct. 27 to change legislation it said challenged the independence of the country’s Olympic committee and sports associations but Kuwait took no action.

The ban means the country’s Olympic Committee and consequently its athletes are not eligible for any funding from the IOC for the duration of the suspension.

Kuwait was suspended in 2010 over a similar dispute but reinstated before the 2012 London Olympics.

The national soccer federation was also banned by FIFA this month over government interference in the running of the Kuwaiti FA.

Reporting by Ahmed Hagagy; Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Robin Pomeroy