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4 Jul, 2022 12:48

‘No place’ for Russians in world sport, claims Zelensky

The Ukrainian president met IOC chief Thomas Bach in Kiev on Sunday
‘No place’ for Russians in world sport, claims Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has called for the continued isolation of Russian athletes from world sport during a visit to Kiev by International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Thomas Bach.

Bach spoke with Zelensky in the Ukrainian capital on Sunday, also meeting with athletes at Ukraine’s Olympic Training Center.

The IOC president said he wanted “to show the solidarity of the Olympic Movement with our friends here in the Ukrainian Olympic Community,” and that “we want to reassure you that you are never alone with the Olympic Community.”

The IOC also announced on Sunday that the fund it had set up to help Ukrainian athletes after the outbreak of the conflict with Moscow would be tripled to $7.5 million.

Bach said that would help to ensure that “the Ukrainian flag will fly high” at the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024 and the Winter Games in Cortina-Milano in 2026.

In comments shared by Zelensky’s office, he was quoted as telling Bach that “more than 100,000 Ukrainian athletes do not have the opportunity of training” because of the current situation.

Attacking Russia, Zelensky demanded that the IOC stick firmly to the stance it first announced on February 28, when it recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams be suspended from all international competition.

“While Russia is trying to destroy the Ukrainian people and conquer other European countries, its representatives have no place in the world's sports community,” Zelensky was quoted as saying.

Bach assured the Ukrainian leader that “the time has not yet come to lift such a ban,” according to comments shared from the pair’s meeting.

The gathering comes after Bach last month cautioned against the interference of governments in sport.

The IOC boss condemned the example set in the UK, where Wimbledon organizers barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from this year’s tournament following pressure from the British government.

Simultaneously, Bach has defended his own organization’s calls for a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, claiming it is partly aimed at protecting them from “aggression” they would supposedly face at events in other countries.

He has also accused the Russian leadership of breaching the so-called 'Olympic Truce' with its military campaign in Ukraine, which began between the closing of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the opening of the Paralympic Games.   

Russian officials and athletes have consistently decried the bans as being discriminatory, arguing that the IOC is undermining the principle that sport should remain outside politics.