The efforts of the International Olympic Committee and many national committees to push the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Paris Olympics in 2024 outraged the world sports community and Ukrainians worldwide.
In a short time, the heads of the ministries responsible for sports in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, the Olympic Committee of the Czech Republic, the Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Sports of Austria, as well as the mayor of Paris spoke against the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in the Summer Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.
On February 7, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Sports Werner Kogler said in an interview with Der Standard that he considers the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in the Summer Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 unacceptable.
Mr. Kogler explained his position by the fact that a large part of Russian and Belarusian athletes are military personnel: “In Tokyo, 45 out of 71 medals went to military personnel. At the Winter Games in Beijing, a third of the Russian Olympic Committee team members served in the army.”
On February 6, the Olympic Committee of the Czech Republic opposed the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Olympic Games, but will not push its athletes to boycott the Olympics, writes Deutsche Welle.
On the same day, the Olympic Committee of the Czech Republic criticized the IOC’s proposal to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris under a neutral flag.
“Russian and Belarusian athletes cannot compete at the Olympic Games. We see no reason to change the “current sanctions,” the Czech Olympic Committee said in a statement AFP quoted. At the same time, the Czech Olympic Committee will not push its athletes to boycott the Games, as some countries do.
The day before, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala said: “I cannot imagine Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in Paris at a time when Ukrainian athletes are dying defending their country.”
“Under such conditions, the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games does not seem like a good idea to me,” he added.
The mayor of Paris recently changed her mind – now she is against the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Paris Olympics.
As UNIAN reports regarding France Info, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said that she does not want Russian athletes to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games, even under a neutral flag.
“While this war continues, this Russian aggression against Ukraine, it is impossible to pretend that nothing is happening. For the delegation to come to Paris when bombs are raining down on Ukraine,” Hidalgo said on Tuesday.
As recently as last month, Hidalgo claimed that athletes should not be deprived of the opportunity to participate in competitions just because of their country of origin, writes Politico. The final decision on the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Olympics remains with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Still, the position of the mayor of Paris, which hosts the competition, is essential. In addition, Hidalgo said that she is ready to publicly voice her disagreement with the IOC if the committee does not reconsider its position.
On February 3, the Polish Minister of Sports announced that 40 countries would oppose the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the 2024 Olympics.
Deutsche Welle also reports that the day before, Polish Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said that 40 countries would oppose the admission of Russians and Belarusians to the Olympics. Among them, according to him, may be members of the European Union and Great Britain. The minister said a video conference of sports ministers of Western countries is scheduled for February 10.
Previously, Poland and the Baltic states opposed the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Olympic Games. They are even ready to boycott the Olympics if athletes from the Russian Federation and Belarus participate.
The National Olympic Committee of Ukraine has already supported the boycott of the 2024 Olympics in France if Russians and Belarusians participate.
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The Ukrainian World Congress, members of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, and the Congress of Ukrainians of Canada will make relevant official statements.
“During recent years, Russia has weaponized its culture and sports to promote the deadly ideas of Ruscism worldwide. A reasonable number of Russian athletes are affiliated with the Russian army. There is no doubt that Russia will use the 2024 Summer Olympics for propaganda purposes just like they’ve attempted to use the 2022 Australian Open tennis competition,” stated Stefan Romaniw, UWC First Vice President and Co-Chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations.
“The Olympic Games are the biggest sports event in the world. Every athlete is an ambassador of their country, and every win brings national pride to their country. As the sports’ largest platform, the Olympic Games and the IOC have a moral obligation to preserve the integrity of sports through their stated mission to ‘contribute to world peace,’” wrote the president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Andrew Futey, in a letter to the president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach.
“To allow Russian athletes who, either through their actions, or through their silence, are complicit in Russia’s crimes to participate in the Olympics is to signal an endorsement by the IOC of those crimes,” stressed the National President of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, Alexandra Chyczij in a letter addressed to Tricia Smith, president of the Canadian Olympic Committee and a member of the IOC.
Chyczij cites Canadian Olympic Broadcasting Chairman Richard Pound, who stated, “At a certain point, there is a shared national responsibility for national conduct.”
The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (VRU) declared its clear and unequivocal position
The Verkhovna Rada adopted a resolution calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the national Olympic committees of the countries of the world, and international sports federations to ban the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports competitions, in particular the Olympic Games, “until the end of the armed aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, including the withdrawal of troops from the entire territory of Ukraine and the resolution of the issue of compensation by the Russian Federation for the damages caused to Ukraine.”
The VRU also called on the parliaments of all countries to support this appeal.
“The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine emphasizes that proposals for the admission of athletes from the terrorist countries of Russia and Belarus to international sports competitions do not take into account the extremely cruel and barbaric nature of the war waged by the Russian Federation with the support of Belarus against Ukraine,” the document says.
The document notes that the Russian aggression led to the massive destruction of the sports infrastructure of Ukraine – more than 320 sports facilities were damaged, and 87 were entirely or partially destroyed.
The resolution also draws attention to the fact that Russian and Belarusian athletes, in particular Olympic champions and medalists of the Olympic Games, approve of the war against Ukraine and the atrocities of the Russian military when they openly participate in Z-parades or support this war with their silence.
The VRU believes that “the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions at a time when the war of the Russian Federation, aimed at the destruction of the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian state, is ongoing, will be undisguised support for this war and an attempt to appease the aggressor.”
“With the start of the full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022, the slogan ‘Sports beyond politics’ lost its right to exist,” the resolution emphasizes.