IOC rejects appeals to ban Russian athletes, seeks pathway to let them compete at Paris Olympics

The IOC made clear Wednesday it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes, in defiance of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's call to exclude them entirely

IANSUpdated: Friday, January 27, 2023, 06:02 PM IST
article-image
IOC | File Photo

The IOC made clear Wednesday it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes, in defiance of Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelenskyy's call to exclude them entirely. Citing a "unifying mission" during a time of war, the International Olympic Committee said no athlete should face discrimination based only on the passport they held.

IOC exploring best solution

"A pathway for athletes' participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored," the IOC said in a statement published after an executive board meeting.

IOC president Thomas Bach did not hold his usual news conference after the meeting. Russia was not directly condemned in the statement though athletes who have been "actively supporting the war in Ukraine" face being excluded from the Paris Olympics that open in 18 months' time, the IOC said.

The IOC cited the example of Yugoslavians competing at the 1992 Barcelona Games - as "independent athletes" while the nation was under United Nations sanctions during a civil war.

IOC refusal to ban Russia angers Kyiv

The willingness of Olympic leaders to involve Russia and its military ally Belarus is likely to be met with dismay and anger in Kyiv. Zelenskyy addressed the issue Tuesday after speaking with French president Emmanuel Macron, who helped campaign for the Paris Olympics when it was a bid candidate in 2017.

"I particularly emphasized that athletes from Russia should have no place at the Olympic Games in Paris," Zelenskyy wrote on his Telegram account of his talks with Macron.

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov said in a statement later Wednesday that "the voice of common sense has been heard." "The priority for us remains the same - to secure the rights and interests of our athletes," Pozdnyakov said.

The IOC board met to formalise a position after rounds of conference calls last week with global groups of Olympic officials, sports governing bodies, IOC members and athlete representatives.

Despite some pushback in those calls, including from the Ukrainian Olympic body, the IOC claimed Wednesday its stated aims were backed by a "vast majority" of those who took part.

Russians would be classed as "neutral athletes" and "in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country," the IOC said. Russian athletes have not competed under their country's name at any Olympics since the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games because of the fallout from a prolonged doping scandal.

Sport receiving backlash

While Russian athletes are banned from most international sports, tennis has been the highest profile example in the past 11 months of Russians continuing to compete without symbols of national identity such as flags and anthems.

However, tensions have flared at the Australian Open with provocative flags, chants and t-shirts in support of players from Russia advancing to the semifinals this week.

The IOC noted Wednesday that its advice was to prevent such displays across "the entire venue." One point raised in Ukraine as a sensitive issue is that some Russian athletes are funded and supported by the military and have been awarded ranks.

The Olympic statement suggested responsibility would lie with individual sports governing bodies to ensure that any Russian athlete supporting the war is removed from competition, suspended and reported to the IOC for further action.

Independent athletes from Russia may compete in Asia

One possible route for Russians trying to qualify for Paris is competing in Asia rather than Europe where they would face boycotts and hostility from other athletes.

The IOC said it "welcomed and appreciated the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia," though did not commit yet to the plan.

The Olympic body did also call on sports bodies to strengthen "full and unwavering commitment to solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes" preparing for the Paris Games. (AP

(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )

(To receive our E-paper on WhatsApp daily, please click here.  To receive it on Telegram, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)

RECENT STORIES

Women's Premier League 2023: It's Mukesh Ambani vs Gautam Adani in opening encounter on March 4 in...

Women's Premier League 2023: It's Mukesh Ambani vs Gautam Adani in opening encounter on March 4 in...

Gymnast Dipa Karmakar announces settlement of doping case over unknowingly taking banned substance:...

Gymnast Dipa Karmakar announces settlement of doping case over unknowingly taking banned substance:...

R Ashwin plays down Steve Smith's comment on relevance of tour games: 'Even India avoids...'

R Ashwin plays down Steve Smith's comment on relevance of tour games: 'Even India avoids...'

Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo finally nets his first goal for Al-Nassr in Saudi league

Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo finally nets his first goal for Al-Nassr in Saudi league

WATCH: Kieron Pollard goes berserk in MI Emirates' impressive 18-run win over Abu Dhabi Knight...

WATCH: Kieron Pollard goes berserk in MI Emirates' impressive 18-run win over Abu Dhabi Knight...