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5 Sep, 2023 07:51

Olympic chief rebuffs Ukraine’s demand

Thomas Bach says Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 games under a neutral flag
Olympic chief rebuffs Ukraine’s demand

A total ban on Russian athletes at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, as called for by Ukraine, is “not possible,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president said on Monday.

Thomas Bach told CNBC-TV18 that a final decision on how Russian and Belarusian athletes, who are under sanctions over the conflict in Ukraine, will participate in the Summer Games next year will not be made “in a few days from now.”

However, he pointed out that IOC recommendations, given to international sporting federations earlier this year, provide a “clear indication” of how he and his colleagues approach the issue.

The guidelines stated that “athletes who do not support the war and who are not linked to the military, or to other services that are in Russia or Belarus, [should be allowed] to compete as individual and neutral athletes but not as representatives of their country,” the Olympic chief noted.

Such a system had been working at world and continental championships in recent months, and has proven to be effective, he added.

“The Ukrainian side is not 100% happy about this but they have accepted it because it’s an opportunity for the Ukrainian athletes to qualify for the Olympic Games,” Bach stressed.

In February, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky insisted that Russian and Belarusian athletes should have “no place” at the 2024 Olympics, and called on countries to boycott the Games if they are allowed to compete.

Moscow is also dissatisfied with the compromise offered by the IOC, with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko calling it a “humiliating ultimatum.” Chernyshenko said in April that Russia did not want an Olympics where its athletes are being told to “betray their country” in order to participate.

“We have on the one hand the Russian government, who wants us to ignore the world. We have on the other hand the Ukrainian government, who said to totally isolate everybody with a Russian passport, which is not possible with regard to our values,” Bach said.

“It’s not possible with regards to human rights. It’s not possible with regards to the Olympic charter,” he added.

The Olympic chief also rejected the notion that sports has nothing to do with politics as “a lie of the past of some sports officials.” According to Bach, the IOC’s job is to engage in “dialogue with politics... to ensure that politics is respecting our autonomy, our neutrality and in this way enabling us to make the world a better place through sports.”