The International Olympic Committee has been criticized after it further paved the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2024 Olympics on Wednesday.
Last month, the Asian Olympic Council blessed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in events under its jurisdiction in preparation for Paris 2024.
This was given the green light by IOC board members on Wednesday following consultative talks held last week with members, the global network of athletes’ representatives, international federations and National Olympic Committees.
The talks on Wednesday focused on three key areas, including possible access to sports competitions for individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports.
The IOC Executive Board agreed that “no athlete should be prevented from competing simply because of his or her passport”, but all involved would compete as “neutral athletes”, assuming they fully comply with the Olympic Charter and do not actively support the war on Ukraine.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the IOC responded by recommending that athletes from Russia and Belarus be barred from international sporting competitions, but almost 12 months later that is no longer the case.
Reacting to Wednesday’s announcement, a joint statement by Ukrainian athletes and a global athlete was critical of the IOC’s decision.
“Today’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the qualifiers for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024 sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supports Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine,” the joint statement reads. statement.
“The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition, especially the 2024 Paris Olympics, will see the Russian state once again use athletes to bolster its war effort and divert attention from the atrocities in Ukraine on one of the largest multi-sport stages in the world.
“The suspension of both Russian and Belarusian athletes and their sports officials must be fully restored until Russia withdraws completely from Ukraine.
“We are aware that the reintroduction of the ban will be painful for many Russian and Belarusian athletes and will deprive them of the opportunity to continue their careers on the world stage. We realize that athletes are not power brokers who are responsible for this war.
“Our conversation today is a hard stance with real human costs. However, the cost of Russian and Belarusian athletes pales in comparison to the atrocities that every Ukrainian experiences.”
The IOC’s executive council agreed on Wednesday that no international sporting events could be held in Russia or Belarus, and government or state officials from both countries would not be invited to any sporting events or meetings.
Solidarity with Ukrainian athletes was also expressed by the IOC Executive Board, which stressed that it was unwavering in its commitment to having a “strong team” for the nation at both the Paris Games and the 2026 Winter Olympics, despite continued efforts to with the war.