Moroccan woman set to join IOC rule making body

Aug. 06, 2008, 9:39 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING(AP) Former Olympic hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel, the first woman from a predominantly Islamic country to win a medal at the games, is set to become the highest-ranking woman in the Olympic movement.

The Moroccan, who won gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, is unopposed for election Saturday to the International Olympic Committee executive board.

The 46-year-old El Moutawakel became the first woman from a Muslim country on the IOC when she was inducted in 1998. She had a high-profile role as chair of the commission which evaluated the bids for the 2012 Summer Games, which were awarded to London in 2005.

The IOC board elections will be held Thursday morning, but her elevation onto the 15-member body was nearly assured Wednesday when two other candidates said they would stand aside so she could be elected.

El Moutawakel will fill an unofficial vacancy for a female member on the board. IOC vice president Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden is leaving the board after her four-year term expired.

Lindberg's VP spot is set to be filled by China's Yu Zaiqing, who will move up from being a regular member of the board to become one of four vice presidents.

Yu's regular board spot is set to go to El Moutawakel.

Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, who leads the powerful IOC finance commission, is seeking re-election to the board. He will be opposed by Britain's Craig Reedie, who is seeking a top spot for a British representative ahead of the 2012 London Games. Carrion, a key associate of IOC president Jacques Rogge, is favored to win.

Carrion and Reedie also could have run for the regular spot being vacated by Yu. But Carrion announced to the assembly that he was withdrawing from consideration for that slot so that El Moutawakel could take it. Reedie had little choice but to follow suit.

``I look forward to a friendly contest for the second seat with Mr. Carrion,'' Reedie said.

Carrion said the IOC needs a woman on the board to help meet its targets for female representation.

The IOC set a goal in 1996 of having women make up 20 percent of the membership. As of today, only 16 of the 110 members are women - six short of the target.

El Moutawakel said she was ``touched and moved'' by Carrion's gesture, and also thanked Reedie.

Four other spots on the board will be filled in straightforward fashion.

Denis Oswald and Mario Vazquez Rana are to be reconfirmed as representatives of the summer sports federations and national Olympic committees, respectively. Rene Fasel, head of the international ice hockey federation, will replace Italy's Ottavio Cinquanta as the winter sports delegate. And former sprinter Frankie Fredericks of Namibia will take over for Sergei Bubka as the athlete representative.