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IOC extends Olympic recognition to Pacific island nation

The Marshall Islands, a former US territory and nuclear testing site comprised of atolls scattered across the Pacific, was accepted as the 203rd member of the Olympic movement.

india Updated: Feb 09, 2006 22:18 IST

The Marshall Islands, a former US territory and nuclear testing site comprised of atolls scattered across the Pacific, was accepted on Thursday as the 203rd member of the Olympic movement.

By acclamation, the International Olympic Committee approved an executive board proposal to recognize of the islands' national Olympic committee -- a step which means athletes from the nation of 60,000 people will have a chance to compete at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

IOC member Kevin Gosper, an Australian who worked with the Marshall Islands in seeking recognition, said he expects a handful of athletes to qualify, possibly in weightlifting, wrestling or tennis.

With IOC recognition, the country will receive a yearly allocation of about US$150,000 to help develop its sports programs. Located about halfway between Hawaii and Australia, the Marshall Islands has been an independent republic since 1986. The islands were wrested from Japanese control during World War II and put under US jurisdiction as a UN trusteeship. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States detonated 67 nuclear tests there.

The country consists of roughly 1,225 islands and islets spread among 29 atolls ranging across 1.9 million square kilometers (750,000 square miles) of the Pacific. The total land area is about 181 square kilometers (70 square miles).

The Marshall Islands became the 16th country in Oceania with IOC recognition, leaving only one other-- Tuvalu-- still seeking Olympic status.

First Published: Feb 09, 2006 22:18 IST