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12 Dec, 2023 10:48

Ukraine backtracks on Olympic boycott threat

Kiev says it will instead focus on trying to prevent Russian athletes from appearing at the 2024 Paris Games
Ukraine backtracks on Olympic boycott threat

Ukraine has backtracked on its threat to boycott the 2024 Olympic Games, having previously claimed its athletes could skip the event in Paris after Russians and Belarusians were cleared to compete under neutral status.

Speaking to the Rada TV broadcaster on Monday, Acting Ukrainian Minister of Youth and Sports Matvey Bedny said that the Paris Games could instead serve as “a powerful platform where – through our athletes – we can speak about the conflict [between Moscow and Kiev].” 

“It makes no sense to lose such a platform. I think that withdrawing ourselves would be pointless,” he added.

According to Bedny, Kiev will instead focus on working with international sports officials to prevent Russian athletes from taking part at the Olympics, which will be held in the French capital from July 26 to August 11.

“We have a little over half a year to do everything we can to prevent the Russians from getting there,” the minister declared.

Bedny’s latest comments come in contrast to his remarks over the weekend, when he described the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as “irresponsible,” and warned that Ukraine would consider its participation at the Games.

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been barred from most international events since the outbreak of the conflict between Moscow and Kiev in February 2022, although the IOC ruled on Friday that they would be allowed to take part in the Paris Games as “Individual Neutral Athletes.” 

That status bars them from displaying flags, colors, and other identifying marks connected to their countries, or showing support for the Russian military operation. Athletes with links to the Russian armed forces and security agencies, as well as those who participate in team sports, will remain banned from the Games.

Moscow was also angered by the decision from Olympic bosses. Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin described the terms imposed by the IOC as “absolutely discriminatory and going against the basic Olympic principles.” 

Matytsin added, however, that the Russian government understands that competing at the Olympics is “a dream for every athlete,” and offered assurances that athletes who qualify for the Paris Games will not be prevented from competing under neutral status.

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