Espreso. Global

34 countries reaffirm demand to IOC to suspend Russian and Belarusian athletes from Olympics – statement

21 February, 2023 Tuesday
13:21

More than 30 countries supported Ukraine's demand to exclude athletes from Russia and Belarus from participating in international sports competitions, even as part of a neutral team

The countries issued a joint statement expressing their concern over the latest proposals from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which explore a path that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition.

The main theses of the statement are as follows:

  • The situation in Ukraine continues to deteriorate after the IOC banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing last year. And now there is no reason to reverse this decision;

  • There are serious concerns about Russian and Belarusian athletes competing on a neutral basis, given that they are directly funded and supported by their respective states. Until an effective model of "neutrality" is detailed, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be allowed to compete;

  • There are clear concerns about the strong ties between Russian athletes and the Russian military;

  • The IOC should consider the issues identified by all countries and revise its proposal;

  • Russia and Belarus can pave the way for the full return of their athletes to the international sports community by ending the war they started.

The statement noted that the support of France, as the host country of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris in 2024, and Greece, as the home of the Olympics, is particularly significant. The appeal was also signed by 2021 Olympic host Japan, Italy, which will host the 2026 Winter Olympics, and 2028 Summer Olympic host, the United States.

Other signatories include: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Great Britain and Sweden.

"Noting the IOC’s stated position that no final decisions have been made, we strongly urge the IOC to address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly," the document states.

The statement says that it confirms the position of the countries, which was developed on February 10 during the sports ministers representatives meeting. It was then supported by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Two previous collective statements of March 8, 2022 and July 4, 2022 were then confirmed. They supported the IOC statement of February 28, 2022, which recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes not participate in competitions while the war in Ukraine continues:

"We noted that the situation on the ground in Ukraine has only worsened since this statement. We firmly believe that, given there has been no change in the situation regarding the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and as an imperative for fairness and solidarity towards the Ukrainian athletes whose facilities have been destroyed and who have had to leave their country (or stay to fight for the defense of Ukraine in which very many have lost their lives), there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC in their statement of 28 February 2022."

The countries also criticized the statement of the International Olympic Committee dated January 25, 2023, which stated the intention of the IOC to return athletes from the Russian Federation and Belarus to participation in the Olympics and selection for it:

"While recognising the autonomy of sports bodies, given the invasion of Ukraine and its devastation is ongoing, we agreed that the IOC’s proposal on exploring a pathway back to competition for individual Russian and Belarusian athletes raises many questions and concerns."

 

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