JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- South Africa received the first sign in two decades that it might be allowed back into the Olympics when a high-powered delegation of the International Olympic Committee granted conditional approval yesterday to a South African Olympic Committee.
However, the international delegation said the country will not be allowed to compete in the Olympic Games until apartheid is abolished and South Africa eliminates racial divisions within its sports organizations.
"Until these conditions are met, the International Olympic Committee requires the continuation of themoratorium applied to international competition with South African sports organizations," said IOC vice president Keba Mbaye of Senegal, who led the delegation on a five-day visit to South Africa.
It was the first IOC group to visit this country since 1967. South Africa was expelled from the Olympic movement in 1970 because of apartheid, the system of government-administered racial segregation and discrimination that operated in the country since 1948.
The South African government already has repealed some apartheid laws and regulations, and President F.W. de Klerk assured the IOC delegation that remaining discriminatory laws would be scrapped by the end of June, when the current session of Parliament adjourns.
The delegation met with de Klerk this week as part of a busy schedule that included meetings with Nelson Mandela, Zulu leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi, members of Parliament and all of South Africa's major sports organizations, including the newly formed Olympic committee.
Sports in South Africa, like all other aspects of life, have been segregated until recently. But authorities are trying to unify organizations that govern competition inside the country.
For years, South Africans have chafed under the international sports boycott, which some commentators have described as the most effective of all the anti-apartheid sanctions imposed against the country because of South Africa's sports madness.
There has been speculation across the country that South Africa might be allowed back into competition in time for the Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain, next year, but Mbaye declined to answer questions about the likelihood that the moratorium would end that soon.
He said that no deadline had been set for South Africa to meet the IOC conditions but added that if the country does not comply within six months, "we will reconsider our position."
In addition to ending apartheid and unifying sports on a non-racial basis, South Africa must establish normal relations with official African sports organizations, especially the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa, the IOC group said.