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11 Mar, 2023 11:35

UK asks Olympic sponsors to ‘pressure’ IOC – media

The British government has reportedly urged Coca-Cola and Visa to lobby for a ban on Russian athletes
UK asks Olympic sponsors to ‘pressure’ IOC – media

The British government has urged major corporate sponsors to help pressure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) into completely banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, UK media reported on Saturday.

British news outlets cited a letter sent by Lucy Frazer, the culture and sport secretary, to 13 companies, including Coca-Cola, Visa, Intel and Samsung.

“Having hosted the games in London in 2012 … we appreciate how vitally important the sponsors are to the games’ successful delivery,” she reportedly wrote.

We know sport and politics in Russia and Belarus are heavily intertwined, and we are determined that the regimes in Russia and Belarus must not be allowed to use sport for their propaganda purposes. 

Frazer was cited as calling on companies to “join us in pressing the IOC to address the concerns raised.” 

The IOC recommended that international sports federations bar Russia and Belarus from global events shortly after Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine in February 2022.

Athletes from both sanctioned countries can still participate in some sports under a neutral flag, although widespread bans remain in place. IOC President Thomas Bach suggested in September that Russians who “do not support the war” should be allowed to compete.

In January, the IOC said that a pathway for “neutral athletes” with Russian and Belarussian passports should be “further explored.” More than 30 countries, including the US, Britain, France, Germany, and Japan, released a joint statement the following month, voicing “strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as ‘neutrals.’” 

Moscow has repeatedly criticized the ban, accusing the IOC of “politicizing” sport. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated last month that the idea of the country’s athletes competing under a neutral flag was “based on unacceptable demands.” She argued that “attempts to push our country out of international sport are doomed to fail.”