The International Olympic Committee provisionally recognized Kosovo on Wednesday, paving the way for it to be part of the Olympics for the first time in 2016.
Kosovo athletes will be able to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics, the IOC said. The IOC’s executive board proposed Kosovo be granted full recognition at an IOC session in December.
Kosovo, which gained independence from Serbia in 2008, has never had athletes compete at the Olympics under its flag.
Kosovo is home to a two-time reigning World champion judoka, Majlinda Kelmendi, who competed for Albania at the London 2012 Games since she didn’t have an option to represent Kosovo.
“Membership of a Kosovo [National Olympic Committee] in the IOC would open this door of opportunities for our young athletes,” Kelmendi told the BBC in 2012. “It would mean that we are equal with others.”
The Serbian Olympic Committee is against Kosovo being recognized by the IOC.
“For four years now, the Serbian Olympic Committee has successfully blocked attempts by the unilaterally declared Republic of Kosovo to gain IOC membership through various channels, while the Serbian authorities have also been timely informed of these attempts,” the Serbian Olympic Committee said in a statement, according to Reuters. “We have information that the IOC is now prepared to support the initiative although we have stated several times, in cooperation with the Serbian government institutions, that such activities are unacceptable.”
*Correction: A previous version of this story stated Majlinda Kelmendi competed for Algeria at the 2012 Olympics. She competed for Albania.