Territories and dependencies not recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including Martinique, Guadeloupe and the Turks and Caicos Islands, are set to compete at the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games (CAC) following a landmark amendment passed at the CAC General Assembly.
A total of 31 nations are participating in the current edition of the world's oldest still-running regional Games which began in the Mexican city Veracruz last Friday (November 14), including Colombia, Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana from South America.
All are also members of the IOC.
In contrast, the new amendment means territories that are not "countries" within the meaning of the IOC or do not have a National Olympic Committees recognised by the IOC can become "associate members" and so participate in the CAC Games.
This will be subject to a number of requirements, insidethegames has learned, the primary one being that a country must have at least five National Federations affiliated to their respective International Federation.
But it could potentially mean participation for the first time at the next edition of the Games, due to take place in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 2018.
The amendment was proposed by Haiti following legal studies and backing from the IOC, with support from St. Lucia, Aruba and Suriname, before unanimous support from all delegates present.
Representatives from the two French overseas territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique were invited to the General Assembly, with Guadeloupe Regional Olympic and Sports Committee (CROS) President Alain Soreze describing the decision as a "historic opportunity" that should pave the way for recognition from other bodies.
"We will have to change software to better train, and better prepare target podiums.
"This inclusion is a historic opportunity for the development of sport in Guadeloupe."
The island, like others set to benefit from the amendment, has already participated in regional competitions in other sports including in football, where the men's national team reached the semi-final of the 2007 CONCACAF Cup in the United States, and finished second in the 2010 Caribbean Cup, the final round of which was held in Martinique.
Anguilla and Montserrat already compete in the Commonwealth Games but their athletes have to represent Britain in the Olympics.
The amendment is another boost for new countries and territories seeking recognition within the Olympic Movement, with participation in the Olympic Games a long term and eventual goal.
It follows the decision by the IOC Executive Board last month to provisionally recognise Kosovo subject to ratification by the full membership.
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