The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has described as “deplorable” the criticism by some European governments of its plan to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes participate in international competitions as individual neutral athletes.
The IOC Executive Board on Tuesday (March 28) issued recommendations for International Federations and international sports event organisers on the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport, as long as they do not actively support the invasion of Ukraine and are contracted to the military.
Athletes from both countries have been banned from several Olympic sports since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
Although the recommendations do not apply to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games for which a separate decision will be taken at a later date, “definitely after the one year to go,” according to President Thomas Bach, governments in Ukraine, Poland and the Czech Republic among others are against the IOC’s plan, saying Russian and Belarus have no place in world sport amid the war.
Speaking to reporters on the final day of the IOC EB Meeting, Bach reacted: “It is deplorable to see that some governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic movement and all stakeholders, nor the autonomy of sport,” Bach said.
“It is deplorable that these governments do not address the question of double standards. We have not seen a single comment on their attitude on the participation of athletes from countries of the other 70 wars and armed conflict around the world.
“It is even more deplorable that they grossly neglect the very clear statement of the two special rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council, while in other issues they are always highlighting their firm requests for the respect of human rights.”
UNITY OF OLYMPIC MOVEMENT
Bach added: “Government interventions have strengthened the unity of the Olympic movement,” Bach said. “It cannot be up to the governments to decide which athletes can participate in which competition. This would be the end of world sport as we know it today.”
He stressed that all the continental Olympic associations representing the 206 National Olympic Committees have welcomed the IOC recommendations. “Today after all the responses we got, I can only reaffirm that the entire Olympic Movement strongly stands by its values and by its mission to unite the world in a peaceful competition,” he said.
With the IOC facing criticism from both Ukraine and Russia for its decision, Bach said: “That both sides in this confrontation are not satisfied to say it diplomatically might indicate that we found some middle ground on which we all can move forward to make a contribution to understanding and peace through sport.”
Credit: AIPS Media