Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), defended the decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to attend the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, individually and under a strict condition of neutrality.
“Individual athletes cannot be punished for the actions of their governments,” Bach said in a dialogue with the BBC and during the World Refugee Forum held in Geneva, Switzerland.
“A war of 28 wars and conflicts in the world and all other athletes are competing peacefully,” argued the German leader, who also announced the Joint Sports Commitment for Refugees, which commits 45 million dollars to benefit 500,000 displaced people.
“Sport is much more than physical activity. Sport is empowerment. Sport is health. Sport is inclusion. Sport is respect. Sport is solidarity. Sport is belonging. Sport is peace,” Bach said at the Geneva Forum, stating that those who disagreed with the decision “were allowed to have different political opinions.” In addition, he rejected boycott threats.
So far, 11 athletes (eight Russians and three Belarusians) have qualified for Paris 2024 and the president of the Organizing Committee, Tony Estanguet, said of the IOC’s position: “We welcome you and respect this decision”.
“We are going to welcome these athletes. Participate within the rules that have been indicated: there are no flags, no anthems, no official ones, no team sports. So these delegations will be very small, but they will be welcome for Paris 2024,” Estanguet told Reuters.
Vladimir Putin’s response: “They will end up burying the Olympic movement”
After the announcement by the IOC about the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes in Paris, as neutrals and individually, both from Ukraine and in Russia they spoke out against it: the former reject any type of athlete participation and the latter feel discriminated against.
In the past few hours, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, spoke on the subject at a press conference and noted: “The current international officials have been too carried away by the business side of the sports movement, they rely heavily on their sponsors. If they continue to act like this, they will end up burying the Olympic movement.”
“Everything that international officials do in relation to Russian sports is in total contradiction and subverts the idea of Pierre de Coubertin. The Olympic movement was created precisely to unite people and not to separate them,” said Putin.