Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), once again referred to the possible boycott in Paris 2024 if athletes from Russia and Belarus participate and was categorical in stating that the decision cannot be taken by countries: “It would be the end of the Games”.
Bach stated after the meeting that 35 sports ministers held and in which the president of Ukraine, Volodymir Zelenski, again called for both Russia and Belarus not to be part of Paris 2024 even under the neutral flag.
“It’s not for governments to decide who can participate in sports competitions. It would be the end of international competitions such as the Olympic Games and other championships,” said Bach and reiterated the IOC’s support for athletes from Ukraine.
“All Ukrainian athletes can be sure that we fully sympathize with them and all their comments are taken very, very seriously... But with regard to the participation of athletes, we have to fulfill our mission of peace and that is a unifying mission to unite people,” said the German leader.
Zelenski stated at the meeting with the sports ministers that “terror and the Olympic Games are two opposite things, they cannot be mixed” and stated that “Russia’s participation cannot be whitewashed with neutrality or with a white flag”.
Great Britain is one of the countries with a strong position regarding the non-participation of Russia and Belarus in the Games. Tennis players from these countries were already excluded from Wimbledon last year (there is still no definition of what will happen in 2023) and at the meeting Lucy Frazer, the new Minister of Sport and Culture of the United Kingdom, stressed that “there is a danger that the world will want to turn the page and return to the way things were before”.
“As long as (Vladimir) Putin continues his war, Russia and Belarus should not be able to participate in any world championships or be represented in the Olympic Games,” Frazer said and his statements coincide with those expressed a few days ago by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
“It would seem indecent to me for a country to parade like nothing happened, for them to come to Paris while bombs continue to fall in Ukraine,” Hidalgo said in an interview with public radio France Info and received the response from the IOC: “There are no plans for a Russian or Belarusian delegation or the flags of these countries to be at the Olympic Games.” However, he was open to “individual and neutral athletes, as we saw last year at the French Open in tennis”.
The meeting of the 35 sports ministers did not go unnoticed in Russia and they accused the IOC of being influenced by the West so that athletes could not be present at the next Olympic Games in Paris.
“I hope that international sport will come together and help the IOC to withstand that pressure. If the IOC and international federations allow themselves to be influenced, this will create a precedent and will have a negative impact on the development and unity of sport,” said the Russian Sports Minister, Oleg Matitsin, in dialogue with the Interfax agency.
“The attempt to dictate the conditions for the participation of athletes in international competitions is unacceptable. All the more so when almost a month ago the national Olympic committees of those same countries supported the decision of the IOC on the participation of our athletes in competitions,” Matitsin emphasized.
Meanwhile, while the specter of the boycott once again flies over the Olympic Games, Thomas Bach was categorical: “As history showed, the previous ones did not achieve their political objectives and only served to punish athletes.”