The “Around the Rings” site looks at how the breakup of the Netherlands Antilles as a political entity this week leaves many unanswered questions for the Olympic Movement in these five Caribbean islands, including the flag under which athletes will compete in London.
Only one decision is certain: there will be no new National Olympic Committees.
Remco Tevreden, director of the Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee, tells Around the Rings that talks will continue next week with the International Olympic Committee and the Dutch Olympic committee at the Association of National Olympic Committees general assembly in Acapulco.
“We’re looking for a solution in the best interests of the athletes,” Tevreden says. “We hope, as an Olympic committee, we made a strong case to maintain the status of both our national federations and our Olympic committee.”
Although the islands of Curaçao and St. Maarten celebrated greater autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands on Oct. 10 — they will not be allowed to form their own NOCs. The rules of the Olympic Charter state that Olympic recognition is given only to independent countries.
“None at this moment are an independent country,” Tevreden says. “We all stayed with our own Dutch passport and are still within the Dutch kingdom.”
Under the new government structure, the islands of Saba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius will become Dutch municipalities.
The Olympic Charter had different rules in 1986 when Aruba broke away from the Netherlands Antilles and established its own NOC. Those rules changed in 1996.
Officials are considering three alternatives. First is to disband the NAOC and national federations and compete under the Dutch NOC, disband and compete under the NOC of Aruba, or continue as the Netherlands Antilles.
If the NAOC is disbanded, it would be the end of a long, proud tradition. The NAOC hopes to celebrate its 80th Anniversary next year and competed in its first Olympics in Helsinki in 1952.
“We have quite a history,” Tevreden says, “and it would be a waste to close doors so our athletes can no longer compete in regional competitions.”
Athletes from the Netherlands Antilles have always been eligible to compete with the Dutch team, and some have chosen that route. However, the NAOC cherished the right to form its own team.
When Churandy Martina, the sprinter from Curaçao who placed fourth in the 100 meters at the Beijing Olympic Games, announced his decision to compete for the Netherlands Antilles, “he got lots of respect and admiration,” Tevreden says. “It would be a shame now due to political reasons that the Olympic committee would not exist and an athlete such as Martina would compete for the Netherlands.”
The Netherlands Antilles has won one Olympic medal. Jan Boersma won a silver medal in windsurfing in Seoul.
The Olympic Charter states that an NOC can “adopt” a flag. “We have some designs with the identities of the different territories,” he says. “Our General Assembly needs to select one.”
If athletes compete under the Dutch flag – a situation akin to their neighbors Martinique and Guadeloupe competing for France – they could not compete in the Caribbean Games or other competitions.
There are other disadvantages to being swallowed up by the Dutch team.
“If we compete for Holland, a country of 16 million-plus compared to our islands of a quarter of a million, then it would be very, very difficult for athletes to participate in international competitions,” Tevreden says. The Netherlands Antilles would also lose the right to apply for Olympic Solidarity funding for its athletes.
Competing for Aruba is an option, but not a popular one.
“None of us see this happening,” Tevreden claims.
“Aruba is a smaller island than all of us — imagine Aruba taking over five big islands; practically, we don’t see it. It also contradicts the whole philosophy why Aruba left the Netherlands Antilles in 1985, 86. They wanted to stand on their own feet and didn’t want to deal any longer with the other islands.”
NAOC officials have been working on this issue since 2005. Originally, the Netherlands Antilles was scheduled to be dissolved in July 2007, but the date was moved to 2010.
Tevreden says a similar situation is found in the United Kingdom, where four countries – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Island – have their own flag and national anthem. They are recognized by FIFA as individual members, but within the Olympic Movement the IOC recognizes only the British Olympic Association.
Tevreden does not anticipate a decision being reached next week in Acapulco. The NOC relations division of the IOC will advise the Executive Board, which will take the final decision. Tevreden expects the EB to act early next year.
“We are already in a unique position within the world. We have three Olympic committees: the Netherlands, Aruba and Netherlands Antilles,” he says.
The question is how many will exist in 2012.
For the original report go to http://www.aroundtherings.com/articles/view.aspx?id=35750