3-letter codes: ISO, IOC, LOCODES

John Clews Scripts2@sesame.demon.co.uk
Tue, 26 Feb 2002 07:37:02 GMT

In message <20020225180735.GB16739@rap.rap.dk> Keld Simonsen writes,
Re: Stability in standards:

> Why did those request 3-letter codes in the first place?
> Two letters are enough for all countries, and much more
> widely known anyway.

I suspect that they didn't - the developers of the standard
ISO/TC46/WG2 (with no intervening SC in the ISO acronym soup)
would have allocated it in any case while developing the standard
ISO 3166: Codes for representation of names of countries.

1. ISO

ISO 3166 allows three options: 2-letter codes, 3-letter codes, and
3-digit codes. 3-digit codes are provided by the United Nations
Statistical Office, and are used in United Nations statistical
publications and databases.

Note that it's my impression that since the initial development of
the standard, ISO/TC46/WG2 has rarely met as a Working Group. I have
no idea who was active on the WG, and how long ago. They rely on the
ISO 3166/MA [maintenance agency] generally.

DIN was the Maintenance Agency, and formally resigned from this task
as well as from providing the secretariat for ISO/TC46, a couple of
years ago.

ITU was to have taken over the Maintenance Agency, but didn't, and
the Maintenance Agency work was taken over by ISO, by default,
according to ISO directives.

These are personal impressions, based on memory, and I could be
wrong, and I am open to correction.

Cord Wischhofer, who undertook the maintenance agency work on behalf
of DIN, seems to be doing the same Maintenance Agency work in ISO (in
Geneva) as he did in DIN. He seems to have done the maintenance
Agency work fine, and was also involved in preparing the drafts of
ISO 3166-2 (Subdivisions of Countries).

ISO 3166 requires the maintenance agency to list a 2-letter code,
a 3-letter code and a numerical code in any update.

2. IOC

In passing, note that the International Olympic Committee certainly
used to have a reputation for not using the ISO 3-letter country
codes, but using some of their own. Nobody forces them to use ISO
codes, though it would help.

I think that these IOC 3-letter codes are those that are used by TV
broadcasters from Olympic games in scoreboards etc.

I didn't bother to check out whether that still applies to IOC and TV
usage this year.

I also didn't check out what code was used by Romania this year or
previous years in IOC/TV sistuations. Does anybody else know?


Note that also in Geneva, 3-letter LOCODES (location codes) have been
developed as a de facto standard, maintained by the United Nations
CEFACT office in Geneva, and that these are very widely used in
e-business, especially where tracking of location data is used, and
the ISO e-business committees are likely to be aware of the detail.
The LOCODES also incorporate the 3-letter Airport codes. LOCODES are
designed to be used in conjunction with the country codes.

I don't have the relevant URL to hand, but if you do a Google or
similar search on LOCODES and CEFACT you should be able to find
further details.

Best regards

John Clews

John Clews,
Keytempo Limited (Information Management),
8 Avenue Rd, Harrogate, HG2 7PG
Email: Scripts@sesame.demon.co.uk
tel: +44 1423 888 432;

Committee Member of ISO/IEC/JTC1/SC22/WG20: Internationalization;
Committee Member of ISO/TC37/SC2/WG1: Language Codes