JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A delegation from the International Olympic Committee met with President F. W. de Klerk yesterday to discuss the prospect that South Africa be allowed to compete in the Olympics again after a 20-year ban.
De Klerk assured the delegation that his government was dismantling the apartheid system of racial segregation that resulted in South Africa's expulsion from the Olympic movement in 1970.
"The time is right for South Africa to be welcomed back into the international sporting arena," he told reporters in Cape Town, where he met the IOC delegation. De Klerk said his government would be happy to do what it could to facilitate the country's return to the Olympics, which he said would make "the dream of South Africans come true."
The six-man delegation, led by a judge from the West African country of Senegal and including former U.S. Olympic champion Edwin Moses, is spending five days in South Africa assessing whether the country has made adequate progress in ending racial discrimination to qualify for readmittance to the Olympic movement.
It is the first IOC delegation to visit South Africa since 1967. In 1970, the country was banned from Olympic competition because of the government's policy of apartheid, inwhich all aspects of life -- including sports -- were segregated.
The delegation is holding meetings with a cross section of political leaders and sports officials, including representatives of the African National Congress, members of Parliament and leaders of various bodies that govern sports competition inside South Africa. Some of the sports bodies have been racially segregated for decades, but are in the process of trying to unite to end the country's pariah status.
"We have always had three requirements which we absolutely want," said IOC general director Francois Carrard of Switzerland. "The first is that apartheid must be eliminated. The second is that the sports movement in South Africa must unite."
He said unification was fundamental to the Olympic movement. "To us, it is a basic question."
The third requirement, according to Carrard, is that South Africa normalize its relations with African sports organizations that serve the rest of the continent but excludedSouth Africa because of apartheid.
Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg, Carrard said the IOC delegation had an "extremely constructive meeting" with de Klerk. He said the president "gave us clear assurances" that the remaining apartheid laws would be repealed by the end of June, when the current session of Parliament ends.
Since becoming president in September 1989, de Klerk has embarked on a reform process which he says is aimed at ending South Africa's racially discriminatory and repressive policies.