A call from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for sporting bodies to only hold events in countries where all athletes are free to participate without discrimination has began to take effect after the International Air Sports Federation (FAI) suspended a major competition in Serbia next year.
In a statement, the FAI confirmed the World Paragliding Accuracy Championships in Vršac, scheduled for May 15 to 25, would not be held as it stands due to the ongoing refusal from Serbia to allow Kosovan athletes to compete.
Kosovo Aeronautics Federation head Shkëlqim Krasniqi claimed the FAI had initially persuaded them to either not take part or to do so under a neutral banner.
Instead, the FAI has decided to suspend the event “due to the political situation between Serbia and Kosovo and to the IOC policy concerning the participation of sporting delegations and athletes in international sports events”.
It is not yet clear whether the event will be moved away from Serbia or if it will take place at all.
Kosovo seceded from Serbia in 2008 and Belgrade does not recognise the country, while relations between the two nations have become further strained in recent weeks following a trade dispute.
It has caused numerous problems for Kosovan athletes at major sporting events in Serbia, with the World Paragliding Accuracy Championships representing their latest obstacle.
Serbia’s Government twice refused to allow Kosovan competitors to enter the country to compete at the European Karate Championships in Novi Sad earlier this year.
Kosovo were also denied permission to participate under their own flag at the Karate World Championships in Spain, which also does not recognise the nation, and their sole boxer was refused a visa for the ongoing Women’s World Championships in India.
Spain’s Government, however, later promised to allow athletes from Kosovo to compete without discrimination after IOC deputy director general Pere Miró told insidethegames they would warn governing bodies against hosting events there.
The issues faced by Kosovo prompted the IOC to reiterate its position on political discrimination, warning that all international sports organisations concerned “should not allocate any international sports event to such a country until the issue is resolved and all the necessary guarantees are provided and implemented”.
“This is to ensure equal treatment for the participating athletes and sporting delegations, in accordance with the basic principles of autonomy and non-discrimination which govern the Olympic Movement,” the IOC said in a statement.
The IOC earlier this year told International Federations to “carefully consider” awarding events to Serbia and Kosovo amid the severity of the political tension between the two countries.