Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has used quite strong words to condemn the International Olympic Committee’s attempts to bring Russian and Belarus athletes back into the Olympic Movement.
“The efforts of the IOC to sweep Russian war crimes under the rug is a testament to how far the Olympic gods have become detached from reality. The IOC is willing to trample on the graves of thousands of innocent people who have been and are being killed by Russians,” Kuleba wrote on Twitter Saturday.
The Ukrainian World Congress also emphasized that 184 Ukrainian athletes died in the war started by Russia, so tolerating the aggressor is unacceptable.
On Wednesday, the IOC Executive Board published a “Statement on solidarity with Ukraine, sanctions against Russia and Belarus, and the status of athletes from these countries.” Even though “solidarity with Ukraine” in the title comes first, the statement uses just 95 words to address the issue. In contrast, the bulk of it is dedicated to the “status of athletes” from Russia and Belarus – 715 words.
According to the statement, the IOC EB held consultation calls with IOC members, the global network of athletes’ representatives, international federations and the National Olympic Committees on Jan. 17 and 19, 2023.
Based on the outcomes of these consultation calls, “with regard to the individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports,” the IOC EB says, among other things, that “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport.” It comes to the conclusion that “a pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored.”
Briefly, the following “strict conditions” are suggested:
- Athletes would participate in competitions as “neutral athletes” and in no way represent their state or any other organization in their country; and
- Only those who have not acted against the peace mission of the IOC by actively supporting the war in Ukraine could compete.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky said he had sent a letter to the presidents of leading international sports federations, stating that the IOC “unfortunately, wants to open sports to the propaganda influence of the terrorist state.”
“If Russian athletes appear in international competitions, it is only a matter of time before they begin justifying Russia’s aggression and using the symbols of terror. And it is also only a matter of time before the Kremlin starts using the existing unprincipled ‘flexibility’ of the International Olympic Committee to say that the world agrees to make concessions to the aggressor,” Zelensky said in his night address Saturday.
A month ago, Zelensky informed IOC President Thomas Bach that Russia’s war of aggression had taken the lives of 184 Ukrainian athletes, and the aggressor was using sports for propaganda purposes.
Photo: A screenshot from Rossiya 1 broadcast demonstrating Russia’s war propaganda during a sports event. The letter “Z,” absent from the Russian alphabet, has become a symbol of Russian aggression against Ukraine in Russia and elsewhere.