Ukraine is working to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Paris Olympics due to Moscow’s invasion, the sports minister said on Tuesday.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is open to including Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the 2024 Games and has opened the door to them competing in qualifiers.
“This is unacceptable for us,” Sports Minister and former Olympic champion Vadym Huttsait told Reuters at his offices in Kyiv, beside a wall with portraits of athletes killed in the war launched by Moscow a year ago with assistance from Belarus.
“It is impossible for us at a time when the full-scale war is going on, when our athletes, our soldiers are defending our homeland, our land, defending their homes, their families, their parents.”
The 51-year-old won an Olympic fencing team gold in 1992, was junior sabre champion in the old Soviet Union four years before that, and coached Ukraine’s winning team at the 2008 Games.
At least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died in the war, Huttsait said, with over 340 sports facilities damaged or ruined.
“Ukraine will unite with many countries in Europe and the world … and it (Russians competing) will not be allowed,” he added, saying 40 nations had given Ukrainian athletes housing and training assistance abroad during the war.
However, other nations have received little public support for an outright ban on Russians in Paris.
Russia says its “special military operation” in Ukraine is to protect its own security, denies accusations of atrocities, and says any push to squeeze it out of global sport will fail.
Russian officials said on Tuesday it would welcome any IOC moves to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics after the world’s top sports body looked at options for their return to international events.
Ukraine President’s View
Earlier Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says that allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Olympics in Paris would amount to showing that “terror is somehow acceptable”.
He said he had raised the issue with French President Emmanuel Macron.
Moscow must not be allowed to use the Olympics for propaganda, he added. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete as neutrals at the Olympics.
But Ukraine has threatened to boycott Paris 2024 if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete.
Attempts by the IOC “to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable”, Mr. Zelensky said in his video address.
Russia must not be allowed to use the Games “or any other sports event as propaganda for its aggression or its state chauvinism”, he added.
Remember that The IOC’s previous recommendation to ban Russians and Belarusians has been applied by many sports federations. But last week, it backed a proposal by the Olympic Council of Asia to allow them to compete in Asia, which could potentially include Olympic qualifying events.