At the opening of the International Federation (FI) Forum in Lausanne, Switzerland, Thomas Bach referred to the importance and challenges of sport in an increasingly conflicted and divided world. In addition, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) pointed to governments seeking to define who can or cannot compete in their territories.
“The current geopolitical tensions are extremely complex and in these times, the unifying power of sport is more important than ever,” said the German leader at the Olympic Museum, explaining that “to be a unifying power, it is essential that we all be united.”
Bach criticized those who want to “decide which athletes can compete in which competitions” and those who “want to decide where their competitions can take place”. He said: “Others want to organize their own political sports events. Especially the latter would mean a government takeover of international sport. If they succeed with this, their role and the role of the Olympic Movement would be obsolete.”
“In such a politicized sport, real world championships would no longer be possible, competitions would take place only between politically related blocs, and it would be impossible for sport to be a unifying force for all humanity. On the contrary, sport would become part of the confrontation and division in our world... For all these reasons, I ask all of you to oppose this politicized sport. None of us should participate in any way in such politically motivated sporting events,” Bach said.
At the opening of the Forum, Bach also thanked the International Federations (IFs) that allowed athletes to participate in their competitions beyond their passports, as recommended by the IOC, and explained the situation of Russian athletes after the suspension of that country’s National Olympic Committee.
“The Russian Olympic Committee had to be suspended by the IOC because it violated the territorial integrity of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine by including among its members sports organizations from regions of Ukraine. This is a flagrant violation of the Olympic Charter. It does not imply that International Federations should automatically suspend their respective Russian member federations. It is up to each one, on a case-by-case basis, to examine the situation in the light of the statutes of the FI”, explained the German leader.
A little more than eight months before the start of Paris 2024, the International Olympic Committee has not yet announced what will happen to Russian and Belarusian athletes, although there is speculation that, as announced by the International Paralympic Committee, they would be able to compete as neutrals and individually. Bach reiterated that he wants the next Olympic Games to be “a symbol of unity and peace”.
“Our role is clear: to unite and not deepen divisions. Therefore, we have an important responsibility: to defend together the power of sport and live up to our shared mission to make the world a better place through sport,” said the president of the IOC and warned: “The autonomy of sport, its autonomy as an International Sports Federation, is under threat. The actions of these divisive political forces would effectively mean that they assume their role as International Federations.”