Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Kosovar Athletes' Olympic Dreams Put On Hold

Urata Rama's steady hand and sharp eye have brought her to the top of her sport. But she won't be competing in London this summer.
Urata Rama's steady hand and sharp eye have brought her to the top of her sport. But she won't be competing in London this summer.
By Bekim Bislimi
PRISTINA -- Twenty-five-year-old Kosovar shooter Urata Rama has been aiming for an Olympic medal since she took up the air rifle in 2004.

Despite living in a village about 60 kilometers from the capital, Pristina, that offers only the most primitive training facilities, Rama's steady hand and sharp eye have made her a top competitor in her sport.

"Rifle shooting is a sport that requires you to be calm," Rama says. "It only takes a split second to fail if you are stressed out."

But politics have thwarted Rama's Olympic dream.

Kosovo had hoped to send a team of six athletes to the London 2012 Summer Games. But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in May rejected the country's application to participate in the July games.

Although 91 countries have recognized Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared its independence in 2008, it has not gained admission to the United Nations.

Malesor Gjonbalaj, an adviser to Kosovo's minister of culture, youth, and sport, says his government feels the IOC decision was arbitrary.

"The Olympic Charter says a country must be recognized by the international community. This notion can be interpreted anyway one pleases," Gjonbalaj says.

"We have asked many times to have an explanation of what it really means. The executive board of the International Olympic Committee interprets it as 'recognition by the UN.'"

Seeking Recognition

Kosovo met another IOC condition by gaining admission to five international sports federations: table tennis, weightlifting, archery, judo, and sailing.

The IOC's decision was a hard blow for Rama. "When you compare yourself to other athletes who might have the same result as you, you know that person isn't even thinking about whether or not they can go to the Olympics," she says.

"They focus only on how to get the best results and how to best represent their countries. But we in Kosovo always face two problems: isolation and how to do well," she adds. "It is disappointing."

Rama's coach, four-time Yugoslav shooting champion Ali Pilana, understands her pain. The Yugoslav Olympic Committee never named him to an Olympic squad because he refused to join the Communist Party.

The only Kosovar athlete who will compete in London is judoka Majlinda Kelmendi. But she has been forced to represent Albania.

The IOC rejected Kelmendi's bid to appear as an independent athlete because she has Albanian citizenship and had previously competed as an Albanian in international competitions that barred Kosovo.

Barriers To Competition

In contrast, Rama and her Olympic-level cousin, air-pistol shooter Lumturie Rama, have only been able to compete in competitions in neighboring Albania and Macedonia. The International Shooting Sport Federation has three times rejected Kosovo's membership applications.

Gjonbalaj says Pristina has lobbied hard to secure international athletic recognition for Kosovo. But it has been a hard road and Kosovo has met obstacles at every turn.

"We're trying to represent our athletes. But the barriers that have been imposed are often politically motivated," Gjonbalaj says. "I'm reluctant to name other countries, but I would start with Serbia."

Just days before the IOC's rejection, soccer's international governing body, FIFA, decided to allow its 208 members to play friendly matches with Kosovo if they choose.

Serbia, which does not recognize Kosovo's independence declaration, immediately protested the decision and asked for a meeting with FIFA President Sepp Blatter.

The last Kosovar to win an Olympic medal was boxer Aziz Salihu, who took bronze as a super heavyweight in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Salihu is also bitter about the IOC decision and also criticizes the Kosovar government.

"Not participating in the Olympics this year is very bad for these youngsters. We all know that we have a lot of talent here," Salihu says. "The government should be ashamed it has not worked harder on this."

But Gjonbalaj says the government's efforts will not stop. The Kosovar Olympic Committee has submitted another application to the IOC. It will be considered at a meeting in December, long after the London torch is extinguished.

And shooter Rama is not giving up either. She says she's got her eye on a new target: the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

With contributions from RFE/RL Kosovo Unit Editor in Chief Arbana Vidishiqi in Kosovo and RFE/RL correspondent Robert Coalson
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Anonymous
July 07, 2012 14:42
Urata Rama could also like Majlinda Kalmendi compete for Albania. Anyway, kosovars are Albanian and speak Albanian.

Nevertheless, 90 countries is still not more than 193 members of the UN. By the way, it's not even half of the members.
I'm neither Serb nor Albanian. I've a lot of respect for Albanian culture, like the language.
yet, the partition into Kosovo (even if it is a the status quo now and probably will be for many years to come) is not the nicest precedent in international politics of recent years.
One corrupt, irresponsible, cruel or strategically misguided government, some lunatics in the history of a nation and you can divide up nations just as some others nations want to.
Why not divide places like Turkey (for instance) into some (Armenian, well, not possible anymore) or Kurdish part,why not the U.S. in a Jewish, a Black, a Native American, a Caucasian and a Hispanic part, why not divide France, and many other nations where there have been ethnic conflicts, religious and "communitarian" interests opposed?
yeah, right , it's makes not really sense if everyone is talking of multicultural tolerance. and of course it's anachronistic.
In some parts, as it has been manifest, different communities with a large population tend to identify more with their ethnic and religious group than with specific values (Sri Lanka, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, France, etc..The solution is not to divide the nations if there is a conflict, the solution is to promote understanding.
In Response

by: Vegim Begolli from: Chicago
July 10, 2012 15:59
The solution is not to generalize a group of people and segregate them in to groups of you you perceive them. Kosovars are Kosovars. Albanians are Albanians. Different dialects, different culture, different religions.

You make not a single valid point. The countries you listed are already established and thriving.
In Response

by: Frank
July 11, 2012 16:09
Many, if not most, if not all of the so-called "Kosovars" (Albanians) havew roots in Albania.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 26, 2012 12:43
"The countries you listed are already established and thriving."

yeah! thriving with wars: Iraq (just a couple of days ago more than 100 people killed; Sri lanka (many many years, suicide attacks, guerrilla war, conflict between two religiously and ethnically opposed groups (yes!, of course not everyone!), specific ethnic groups in specific regions.; Lebanon, no civil war? no conflict in the wake of the syrian conflict; turkey? no trouble with kurds and separatism, people threatening and killing writers who dare to evoke the past and the armenians.

of course, albanians are not a homogenous block (as no ethnic nor religious group is). that's clear anyway.

the notion, you don't understand is that many people coming from specific countries construct their ghettos in their own nations and even in other nations they tend to migrate to.
so, the solution is not a homogenous society. it's anachronisticsince there is more and more migration.
yet, since you already have your ideology thoroughly developed, it seems any point made would be invalid. you read want you want to read.
still, the partition of serbia is a fact, but was not the best idea. imagine in 100 years or more people from bangladesh or wherever might be living in kosovo at the frontier with montenegro, albania and macedonia, constituting the majority (fictiociously).
then, soem day (due to discrimination, racism, violence, etc., ideology...) they push for a referendum and want all the bangla speaking community to join them and get half of the territory of kosovo.
maybe, there is a military conflict, maybe not. eventually, other nations accept the demand of this community. (maybe blood is hed during this crisis.)
in fact. it would be acceptable. no doubt. but co-existence wouldn't be bad either.
(get the idea?)
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 28, 2012 10:27
"Kosovars are Kosovars. Albanians are Albanians. Different dialects, different culture, different religions."

there are also various dialects/accents/varieties in French, spanish, english, italian, kurdish, hindi, arabic, norwegian, etc. still, these languages have a specific root. despite south african, canadian, u.s. (southern states, vernacular) etc. varieties it's still called english.
if you are from kosovo or albania you should know that the language of elvana gjata, nora istrefi and others, poets alike do not differ much and that in albania varieties in the north and south differ also to a certain extent.
besides what religions are you talking about? is there many more religions than christianity and islam in albania (maybe some jews...accepted, fine)? yet, what are the differences though between kosovo and albania in this very respect?
sorry, but your way of presenting things does not really depict realities in the part of the world you pretend to know things about.
besides read some albanian literature and compare it with literature or excerpts from kosovo. there are some differences but basically except for some grammatical structures and very few words it is basically the same language. The same applies to dialects in northern and southern albania (GHEG AND TOSK!!!), as mentioned before.
so again, if you raise aspects of validity it seems some of your arguments and claims are rather untenable or as you put it "invalid". (no offense)

by: Jack from: US
July 07, 2012 14:56
Kosovo is illegal entity carved out from Serbia by US government and its NATO minions using military force. By any stretch that was illegal act and Kosovo is not recognized by vast majority of countries. Kosovo will never be admitted to UN
In Response

by: Kilroy Was Here from: Dallas, Texas
July 08, 2012 04:39
Jack - 91 countries worldwide have recognized Kosovo. Check
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
July 08, 2012 23:44
Shame shame shame on the olympic committee ...they should have joined all muslims from the area in one great team-that of Great Albania-and they should have introduced drug smuggling .human organs trafficking and talking turkey as olympic sports as well.Then the kosovars could have sent Kiljoy some brain and erect a statue to the unknown texas kiljoy who dispensed justice to bad old Kennedy half a century ago.Shame nobody has given any credit to the good old texans for such a long long time.Long live Shamerica!!!And Israel,too!!!
In Response

by: Jack from: US
July 09, 2012 12:58
The above comment was not written by me. An RFE/RL staffer picked his note and hates Christians.
In Response

by: Frank
July 11, 2012 16:10
Most countries still don't recognize Kosovo's independence.

Neither does the UN.
In Response

by: Johann from: USA
July 13, 2012 19:03
Jack from US is correct. Many of RFE/RL employes are Muslim Sympathizers !!!

by: Mart from:
July 08, 2012 09:01
Why cannot they compete for Albania and Serbia, respectively? There is no permanent Kosovo state at the present premises. Maybe it needs to be partitioned like Bosnia, but that needs to be left for the population, and Ahtisaari-like non-biased honest politicians to work out.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 10, 2012 05:48
You are saying: "that needs to be left for the ... Ahtisaari-like non-biased honest politicians to work out". Who knows, Mart, maybe it will be left to such politicians as Bashar al-Assad to work out :-)))
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 10, 2012 12:21
Thanks again, Kontantin, for using my name to publish your insightful comments.

by: CJ from: Saskatoon,Canada
July 09, 2012 16:02
Whats with all the bizzare comments? This is simply about a young lady who wants to compete. It's a shame sport and politics play with future of real talent. If I had the ability to make things happen, I would invite her to represent Canada.
In Response

by: American Troll
July 10, 2012 11:25
Judging from your polite, civilized, rational remarks, you must be lost. This is the comment thread for a Kosovo article. Asbestos not required but strongly recommended, and leave your hope for humanity at the door.
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 10, 2012 12:36
No no no ....

This is a pitiful and lamentable article by RFE

for people believe that the legal "status quo" of Kosovo
is a great injustice

without remembering that the same policy of understanding

is never applied

for example

to other de facto independent countries

like Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Transnistria , Nagorno Karabak

simply because those "de facto states"

don't respect geopolitical interests of U.S. / NATO

“to operate/use/adopt/have double standards“
In Response

by: FRank
July 11, 2012 16:12
Wellp ut anonymous.

Keating of is another huckster on the subject of Kosovo.

by: Darren from: Canada
July 14, 2012 00:36
Isn't it a pity that such a beautiful young lady is prevented from achieving her dreams by a fistful of racist, hateful Serbs? Serbs, what has Urata done to you? Why do you hate her so much?
In Response

by: Frank
July 28, 2012 13:23
Darren the real racists are people like yourself who collectively present others as innocents unlike the Serbs.

by: Brazilian Man from: São Paulo - Brazil
July 14, 2012 09:13
This is a LIE of the IOC. Because if UN recognition were necessary, how Taiwan and Hong Kong can compete since they are not considered independent nations by the UN?

The IOC fears Russia and China, that’s the truth.
In Response

by: Frank
July 28, 2012 13:26
Taiwan doesn't compete under its national flag and official name.

Hong Kong competes as an agreeable part of China.

These circumstances differ from the situation with Kosovo.

Leave it to an ignorantly anti-Serb and anti-Russian source like yourself to express convoluted views.

by: StVitus
July 23, 2012 20:00
She is an Albanian. A country called Albania exists. Therefore, she can play for Albania in the Olympics. I don't understand what the issue is here. The Serbian province of Kosovo is NOT recognized by more then half of the countries in the world. Those who have been included on the 'list' of accepting countries include one's which never formally recognized it as well. To sit here and spew out bizarre remarks laced with hatred and numerous spelling errors give's you an idea of who the true troublemakers really are. Albanians have a country, they slowly moved across the border into Serbia and multiplied. This does not mean that they should be able to take land and claim it as another country.

by: Anoymous from: Fredericton,Canada
July 27, 2012 04:32
Simply put I'm upset at the International Olympic Committee's (IOC's) decision to deny Kosovo's participation for the 2012 London Olympics.If there were nations who oppose Kosovo's independence that influenced the IOC to deny Kosovo's participation than I feel those nations are responsible for Kosovo's dilema (if you will.) Finally and despite this setback I hope that a time will come when Kosovo can participate in "major events" where people who don't recognize Kosovo's independence can't do anything about it.
In Response

by: Frank
July 28, 2012 13:28
Bravo to the countries and orgs which oppose the bogus Kosovo independence claim

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