LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- South Africa, long a pariah in the international sports world, returned to the Olympic organization Tuesday, 21 years after being expelled for its racist apartheid policy.
The move was announced by the International Olympic Committee from its headquarters and means South Africa will be eligible to compete at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville, France, and the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona, Spain.
South Africa last appeared in the Olympics in Rome in 1960. Ten years later the country was formally ejected from the IOC.
In announcing its decision, the IOC pointed to South Africa's compliance on three fronts -- abolition of apartheid laws, non-racial unification of South African sports and normalization of relationships with African sports organizations.
The final hurdle was cleared when IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch endorsed a recommendation by his group's Apartheid and Olympism Commission.
South African athletes for the most part rejoiced at their country's reinstatement in Olympic competition, but hard-line anti-apartheid groups argued that sanctions against the white minority-ruled nation continue until the last vestiges of institutional racism are abolished.
'I'm very very pleased. I think it's absolutely great,' Myrtle Bothma, ranked second in the world in the women's 400 meters hurdles, said from her Pretoria home. 'It's great that we have the opportunity to take part internationally.'
But Yussuf Kara, a regional vice president of the South African Council on Sport, said the IOC acted while blacks are still disenfranchised in South Africa. 'It's crazy because (ANC President) Nelson Mandela still can't vote, he still can't sit in Parliament,' he said.
The government has abolished all South Africa's apartheid laws, but its constitution, which excludes blacks from voting, remains in place.
The IOC announcement, ending one of the most vexing issues facing the IOC, was made minutes after Kebe Mbaye of Senegal, the commission chairman and an IOC vice president, recommended reinstatement.
His recommendation followed a meeting with the Interim National Olympic Committee of South Africa in the presence of delegates from the South African National Olympic Committees. Mbaye said South Africa had fulfilled the conditions set by the IOC in granting the country's provisional membership in March.
The statement, in part, said: 'The Apartheid and Olympism Commission, having met with INOCSA in the presence of SANOC, considering that by virtue of the abolition of the laws of apartheid, INOCSA can from now on respect the Olympic charter; that it has undertaken to do so; that it has successfully embarked on the unification of sports in South Africa on a non-racial basis as well as on the normalization of its structure in conformity with the usual procedures and the IOC's directions.'
Sam Ramsamy, who led the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee while living in exile in London, returned to South Africa this year to head INOCSA, the newly formed umbrella organization that served as South Africa's gateway to the Olympics.
South Africa President F.W. de Klerk removed the biggest obstacle to his country's return to the Olympic games when Parliament repealed the final pillar of apartheid laws last month.
The racial division in South Africa violated Rule 3 of the Olympic charter, which stipulated 'no discrimination in the Olympic Games is allowed against any country or person on grounds of race, religion or politics.'
The major breakthrough came this year when MBaye's commission went to South Africa in March, the first IOC delegation to visit the country since 1967. The delegation reflected Samaranch's stance that African nations would determine South Africa's Olympic future.
The delegation met with de Klerk, ANC President Nelson Mandela and various sports bodies.
De Klerk's assurance that the final law on apartheid would be repealed before the end of June, plus support from Mandela, convinced the commission that the political obstacles were indeed falling.
On March 28, MBaye, a former judge at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, announced South Africa's provisional membership. The South Africans were then given a six-month deadline to conform with the conditions.
The IOC decision concludes three decades of wrangling. After the 1960 Olympics, the IOC withdrew South Africa's invitation to compete at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In 1967 the IOC visited South Africa and reported no change in apartheid.
The IOC then gave South Africa a two-year deadline in which to comply with the charter. South Africa did not compete at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, and the final parting came in 1970 with South Africa's expulsion from the IOC.
South Africa's reinstatement into the Olympic movement came as President Bush reviewed a State Department study on lifting economic sanctions against the nation.