Several countries, including Britain and Denmark, opposed on Thursday the initiative of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to find a “path” to allow Russian athletes to participate in the Paris Olympics in 2024, in despite the invasion of Ukraine.
• Read also: 2024 Olympics: Paris Hilton to the rescue?
• Read also: Bruny Surin: head of mission for Paris 2024
Ignoring calls from kyiv to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the next Games, the IOC said on Wednesday that ways to allow them to do so should be “further explored”.
Russia and Belarus have been sidelined from most sporting events since the Russian army invaded Ukraine in February 2022. “No athlete should be banned from competition on the basis of their passport alone,” said however estimated the Committee.
The Olympic Council of Asia (COA) for its part proposed Thursday to integrate Russian and Belarusian athletes into its regional competitions such as the Asian Games, expressing its support for the position of the IOC.
The COA’s proposal could in particular allow banned athletes to participate in its regional qualifying events, some of which have already started, for the 2024 Olympics.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is strongly opposed to any attempt to reinstate Moscow and Minsk, and Ukraine threatened again on Thursday to boycott the Paris Games if the IOC went ahead.
“If we are not heard, I do not exclude the possibility that we boycott and refuse to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games,” said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Goutzeit.
Michelle Donelan, the British Minister of Culture, also in charge of Sports, for her part considered that the IOC initiative was “very far from the realities of war”.
“We condemn any move that would allow (Russian) President Vladimir Putin to legitimize his illegal war in Ukraine,” she said. “IOC President (Thomas) Bach himself condemned Russia less than a year ago for violating the Olympic truce and asked to ‘give peace a chance’,” recalled Ms. Donelan.
The head of the Danish Olympic Committee, Hans Natorp, stressed that his country was also strongly opposed to Russia’s return to the Olympic world. “Russian aggression in Ukraine is intensifying,” he tweeted. “Under these circumstances, it would be unacceptable to allow Russia and Belarus to participate in sporting events.”
“We firmly maintain our position. It is not yet time to consider their return,” he added.
The mayoress of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, however, wanted Russian athletes to be able to participate in the Olympics, but under a neutral banner.
“I think this is a moment for athletes and athletes should not be deprived of their competition. But I think and I plead, like a large part of the sports movement, for there to be no delegation under the Russian banner, ”she explained on the France 2 television channel. She would prefer to see the athletes Russians to compete “under a neutral banner”, as has already been done.
The organizing committee of the Paris Olympic Games, however, has no say in deciding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The IOC recalled on Wednesday that it is the international federation of each sport concerned at the Olympic Games which has “sole authority” in the matter.