World Taekwondo now has 213 member nations after the admission of Namibia ©World Taekwondo

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivered a video address to World Taekwondo congratulating it on its 50th anniversary at its annual General Assembly here, where the admission of Namibia as a new National Federation headlined the day's business.

The application to become World Taekwondo's 213th National Association was approved by the Council before the gathering, and rubber-stamped by the General Assembly.

Provisional recognition was also granted to a new National Federation in Portugal recognised by the National Olympic Committee and Government, with the European Taekwondo Union to monitor its cooperation with the former body for three to six months before it can become a full member.

Today marks the 50th anniversary of World Taekwondo's founding in 1973, with a gala dinner held last night in Azerbaijan's capital to mark the occasion before the World Championships are due to begin tomorrow.

In his opening remarks, Choue thanked the nations in attendance for helping World Taekwondo to grow over its 50 years.

"Since I became World Taekwondo President in 2004, when I changed the holding of the General Assembly to one year, this is the 21st time I have opened a General Assembly," the South Korean official said.

"We have come a long way in the last 50 years.

"We are strongly united as a family, and we have stayed together no matter what kind of challenges we faced.

"You are my family."

World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue said the nations gathered at the General Assembly are
World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue said the nations gathered at the General Assembly are "my family" ©World Taekwondo

Following updated IOC recommendations in March, World Taekwondo opted to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as individual neutrals at the World Championships provided they passed a "three-step verification process".

This prompted a boycott of the World Championships from Ukraine, and Choue addressed the situation at the General Assembly.

He admitted there were differing views in the Council on measures to take regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes and claimed he was "deeply saddened" by Ukraine's non-participation at the World Championships, but insisted World Taekwondo "is committed to supporting Ukrainian athletes until the war is over and the situation has improved".

Two Russian Olympic champions, Maksim Khramtsov and Vladislav Larin, had their applications to compete rejected.

Bach is expected to travel to Baku to attend the World Championships next week, and praised World Taekwondo President Chungwon Choue for his work in developing the sport.

"As you celebrate this milestone you can look back at 50 years of great progress," Bach said.

"Starting with only 17 Member Associations 50 years ago you made your Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000.

"Since then you have not stopped growing and developing your sport.

"In this context, I would like to in particular highlight the outstanding achievements having been accomplished under the great leadership of your President Choue.

"He has made taekwondo one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing sport in the world which is now a truly global sport.

"As your 213 Member Associations today underline in an impressive way, taekwondo now enjoys worldwide appeal.

"In this way you are bringing together people all over the world in peaceful competition, thereby promoting our shared Olympic values."

He reserved particular praise for the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation's work supporting refugees.

World Taekwondo secretary general Jeongkang Seo of South Korea provided the financial report to delegates, detailing $16,1 million (£13 million/€15 million) in net assets for 2022.

Revenue of around $11.4 million (£9.2 million/€10.6 million) was reported for 2022, of which approximately $3.9 million (£3.2 million/€3.6 million) in Olympic Games revenue from the IOC was the biggest contributor, and total expenses of roughly $9.3 million (£7.5 million/€8.7 million).

The General Assembly additionally heard reports on virtual taekwondo, its involvement in Olympic Esports Week in Singapore next month and a survey of National Associations in which 163 out of 212 participated.

Chuncheon in South Korea is due to host next year's General Assembly alongside the World Taekwondo Junior Championships.