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11.08.2004 Sports News

Olympic Committee assures visa applicants

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Accra, Aug 11 GNA - The Ghana Olympic Committee (GOC) has assured Ghanaians who were refused entry into Greece to witness the Olympic Games that negotiations are still on-going to ensure that more of the supporters make the trip to Athens to cheer the country on to win gold. Speaking to the Press on Wednesday, Mr B. T. Baba, President of the GOC said it came as a shock to them when only 200 of the 926 applicants who submitted their applications were given the visas.

He said before the issue cropped up, they had met with the Spanish Ambassador who oversees Greek interest in Ghana at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the Ambassador promised to grant only 200 which the GOC flatly refused and asked for 500 visas.

"We pressed hard and he agreed to move the number to 350 so we were at a loss when later the Ambassador reverted to his earlier unilateral stance of 200 applicants."

The President of the GOC said he considers the Ambassador's decision as a slap in the face and he has therefore referred the issue to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with the issues and that the talks are still on-going to arrive at a mutual decision.

"The issue has not been left there as the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports and the Ghanaian Ambassadors to Italy and Turkey all currently in Greece have all joined to pressurised the Greek officials to allow many more Ghanaians to watch the games"

Mr Baba gave the assurance that all the Ghanaians who intended to watch the Games have all been vetted by a joint committee of members from the GOC and the Sports Ministry and have all been passed to undertake the trip hence the Spanish reluctance comes as a surprise.

"This is not the first time we have sent supporters to games of this nature, we sent supporters to Manchester for the Commonwealth Games and to the Last Olympic Games in Sydney and we did not have such problems."

He said fellow West African country, Nigeria has been given 11,000 visas for their fans to go Athens with 2000 also given visas to go and cheer on the Nigerian women basketball team.

"It is important for all to know the part fans play in sport and that is why Italy is sending about 20,000 people to go and watch the match between Ghana and Italy on Thursday.

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