Saturday, June 22, 2024

IOC boss Thomas Bach defends move to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutrals

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) head, Thomas Bach, has defended a decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutrals.

“Individual athletes cannot be punished for the acts of their governments,” said Thomas to BBC at a forum in Geneva.

Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022.

One war among 28 wars and conflicts going on this world and all the other athletes are competing peacefully with each other.” he added.

The IOC last week declared that individual competitors who qualified for the summer games in Paris, France, and Belarus, would be permitted to compete without flying national flags, symbols, or anthems. The athletes had not been allowed to compete before. Teams representing the two countries are still prohibited from using that.

Athletes and support staff who openly backed Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine must continue to be excluded, the IOC stated.

Earlier, Olympic sports federations had asked the IOC to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete but with no affiliation to their nations.

This was despite several countries – including the US and UK – calling for an all-out ban amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Ukraine itself suggested it might boycott the games, with President Volodomyr Zelensky saying Russian athletes “cannot be covered up with some pretended neutrality.”

Bach dismissed the threats of a boycott, saying countries that disagree “are allowed to have different political opinions”.

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