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Ukraine condemns ‘change’ of IOC plans over Russians

Officials from Ukraine have condemned what they see as a change in position by Olympic chiefs over Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at Paris 2024.

March 30, 2023
30 March 2023

Ukraine’s sports ministry has condemned what it says is a partial change of position by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in international competitions as neutrals.

Ukrainian Olympic boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko said that IOC president Thomas Bach “serves the colours and interests of Russia” as he also criticised the stance, along with politicians from countries including Germany, Poland and Lithuania. 

The IOC issued recommendations on Tuesday for the athletes’ gradual return to world sport, with President Thomas Bach saying their participation “works” despite Russia’s war in Ukraine.

“The Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine condemns the partial change of the position of the International Olympic Committee regarding the non-admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes,” a Ukrainian ministry statement said on Wednesday.

“We have consistently advocated and will continue to insist that under the conditions of the unprecedented unprovoked military aggression of the Russian Federation with the support of the Republic of Belarus against Ukraine, which contradicts the principles of the Olympic Charter, representatives of aggressor states should not be present at international sports arenas.”

The ministry said the recommendations should primarily be applied to sports where athletes from Russia and Belarus have already been admitted to competitions.

The head of Russia’s Olympic Committee said the criteria announced by the IOC were unacceptable. The Kremlin said the IOC’s guidelines that allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete contained “elements of discrimination”.

The recommendations made by the IOC executive board concern the return of athletes to international competitions but not specifically the 2024 Paris Olympics, for which a separate decision will be taken at a later date.

Ukraine and some of its allies have threatened to boycott the Paris Games should they compete, even as neutrals.

“Thomas Bach serves the colours and interests of Russia,” said Klitschko. “This decision contaminates the Olympic spirit and is like this war: a nonsense.”

Ukraine’s Olympic chief, Vadim Gutzeit, said on Facebook they will continue to make efforts that “no z-patriot gets into the international sports arenas”, referring to the letter z which is used in Russia in support of the war.

World Athletics and the European Games confirmed that Russians and Belarusians would not be admitted to their events.

“There is no change to World Athletics’ position, as outlined after our Council meeting last week. As the IOC said yesterday, it is the responsibility of the respective international federations to decide on this,” a World Athletics statement said.

Organisers of the European Games set for June and July in Krakow, Poland, also said that the decision from October to ban Russians and Belarusians “remains unchanged”.

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