There is an established order and it’s quite clear. The sports federations of each country are the local arm of the corresponding international entity. Example: The FFF (Fédération Française de Football) is the French branch of FIFA. As such, they are autarchic organizations in which States cannot intervene except in very severe cases of corruption, violence or the like. In addition, the vast majority of international sports entities, which are part of the IOC, hold many of their autonomous decisions regarding the Olympic leadership field.
This, which in almost all cases is logical and even healthy, in the so-called Russia Case would justify the search for common codes, at least on the way to Paris.
Russian and Belarusian athletes had been excluded from International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) competitions in March 2022, shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. On July 19, the decision to make this exclusion more flexible was announced and this week, details of the conditions for this return were announced: any athlete who wishes to obtain and compete under the status of “individual neutral” will have to submit an application to FIG. Those approved will be eligible to compete in events starting January 1, 2024.
As recommended by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), only individual gymnasts will be accepted “in no way” as teams representing the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus, the National Olympic Committee (NOC) or the National Federation (NF).
As a first requirement regarding geopolitical conflict, the FIG requires that those who aspire to be considered neutral athletes cannot “have acted against the peace mission of the Olympic Movement by actively supporting the war in Ukraine”. In addition, it will be essential that there be no link with the Russian, Belarusian armies or any other national security agency; and they must refrain from any activity or communication, whether verbal, non-verbal or written, associated with the national flag, the anthem, the emblem or any other symbol of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Belarus, their NF or NOC.
The document clarifies that social networks will be evaluated and any support for the war on any virtual platform will be reason enough to not be able to count on authorization.
The flags of the Russian Federation and Belarus (current or historic) will not be allowed in any official place or area controlled by FIG. When its use is necessary (for example, in ceremonies, television screens and communication media), a flag of a blue color will be used. Competition attire must also be blue and the devices used in rhythmic gymnastics must be completely white: “Any use of clothing other than that approved by the FIG will result in refusal to participate or disqualification,” the document states.
When music is used for routines, it must be neutral and must not contain reference to sanctioned countries or messages with a direct or indirect political connotation.
As for who would meet these strict requirements, 45 artistic gymnasts, including all the athletes from the men’s and women’s teams that won gold at Tokyo 2020, with the exception of Liliia Akhaimova, have been sanctioned by Ukraine for supporting the war.
In rhythm, the twins Dina and Arina Averina are also noticed. While Ukraine’s sanctions do not amount to immediate disqualification for eligibility, the Government’s website gives an idea of why each athlete has been sanctioned, often with links or other supporting evidence that would exclude them.
Seven-time Olympic medalist and 20-time world medalist Svetlana Khorkina gave her perspective on these rules: “I would not go to Paris 2024 under such conditions. We need to do our own competitions for those who want to fight honestly under the motto ‘faster, higher, stronger’. We need to fill our calendar with our tournaments and invite our people,” said Khorkina.