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6 Apr, 2024 15:28

Kremlin weighs in on Olympic boycott calls

It’s up to individual athletes and sporting federations to decide whether to take part in the Paris Games, Dmitry Peskov has said
Kremlin weighs in on Olympic boycott calls

Sporting federations and athletes should decide themselves whether to participate or not in the upcoming Olympics, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has said, responding to a call for a boycott of the Games voiced by the head Russian rhythmic gymnastics coach Irina Viner.

The Russian leadership believes the country’s athletes may opt to participate in the Games as long as they are not forced to “renounce” anything, Psekov told the Russian daily RBK on Saturday. 

“Therefore, each athlete, each federation makes their own decision. And during the recent sports meetings, President [Vladimir Putin] said exactly this,” Peskov explained.

Viner urged Russian sporting federations to boycott the Olympics earlier this week, arguing that there was no point in competing in the Games given all the restrictions imposed on the country’s athletes by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). She urged the sporting community and the authorities to convene a meeting to assess the issue and produce a unified opinion on it. 

“A coaching council must convene, while leaders and athletes must speak and make a decision [to boycott the games],” the veteran coach stated. 

For more than a decade the IOC has been imposing gradually toughening requirements on Russian athletes, stripping them of the national anthem and flag at previous games over doping allegations. The restrictions have grown even worse amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Late last month, the IOC announced that the maximum number of Russians who can qualify for the Paris Games is 55, while for Belarus it is just 28. The athletes can only participate as neutrals and are restricted to individual competitions, with both countries barred from team sports altogether.

Russian athletes who have publicly supported the military operation in Ukraine or are somehow linked to state security agencies or the military are also barred from the Games. While athletes are not required to explicitly condemn the operation, all athletes must sign the so-called Conditions of Participation for Paris, which oblige them to respect the Olympic Charter, including “the peace mission of the Olympic Movement.”

The IOC said the two countries were unlikely to meet the quota, given all the restrictions, and that 36 Russian and 22 Belarusian athletes were expected to qualify. Moscow has harshly criticized the restrictions and has suggested that the IOC was effectively destroying the Olympic spirit and the very purpose of the Games.

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