Thirty nations demand answers

France is among 30 nations asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to clarify the definition of “neutral” of Russian athletes.

French Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra signed a statement, which expresses concerns over the possibility of Russian and Belarussian athletes participating as so-called “neutral” status. Dignitaries from Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden, and the USA have added their signatures.

The statement claims that there is a substantial lack of clarity and concrete details on a workable neutrality model. It urges that the IOC answers the question.

This stems from an international Summit chaired by British Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer on February 10 that brought together more than 35 nations specifically to discuss the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

“Russia and Belarus sport and politics are closely intertwined,” the statement read.

“We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ — under the IOC’s conditions of no identification with their country — when they are directly funded and supported by their states (unlike, for example, professional tennis players).

IOC member sides against Russia

Valeriy Borzov, the Ukrainian Olympian and former sprinter, has sided against the IOC on the notion of Russia and Belarus being included in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

“I would like to address this question not from a political point of view but with human values,” the 73-year-old Borzov told The Sunday Times in an interview.

“We should first ask the population of Ukraine how they would feel about athletes meeting Russian and Belarusian athletes in their everyday actions, in the canteen, on the podium, how they would feel after that returning to Ukraine, to their destroyed hometowns and cities, where the kidnapping and raping of women took place, where the Russians are threatening them with dirty bombs and are desecrating their country.

“It is quite understandable from the human point of view and the answer is very clear: it is advisable for the Russian and Belarusian athletes to wait for their participation in the Olympic Games until the end of the war. 

“I am stating my opinion quite openly, I adhere to human values, and I am voicing my position even if it is in disagreement with the IOC.

“I am a citizen of Ukraine. 

“I can take no other view.”

Boxing boycott due to Russia’s inclusion grows

The Polish Boxing Association (PZB) has joined the growing number of governing bodies to boycott the 2023 International Boxing Association World Championships.

PZB vice-president Maciej Demel told Polish media that they will not be sending athletes to the World Championships due to Russian and Belarusian participation.

“As one of the first sports associations after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, we adopted a resolution that we will not compete in competitions in which Russians and Belarusians will take part,” said Demel in a report by Sport.PL.

“Since then, we have not adopted a new resolution, so the old one remains in effect.

“We are consistent in our actions.”

European Union rips into the IOC

A European Union (EU) resolution ripped into the IOC as the group spoke with their votes. They went 444 votes in favour, 26 against and 37 abstentions.

The resolution stated that allowing Russia and Belarus to participate in Paris, “runs counter to those countries multifaceted isolation and will be used by both regimes for propaganda purposes.”

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has launched renewed criticism at the IOC and its President Thomas Bach for its change of stance.

“The hypocrisy of the IOC President and the Committee is simply pathetic,” Kuleba said.

Russian Sports Minister counters the international community

According to the Russian news agency TASS’ article titled “IOC starts grasping importance of Russia’s participation in int’l tournaments — minister.”

“The IOC has finally come to realize the importance of Russian athletes’ participation in international sports tournaments,” Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said on Monday.

“We believe that Lausanne has come to realize that major sports tournaments cannot be organized without the participation of athletes from Russia,” Matytsin was quoted as saying in a statement provided by the Russian Sports Ministry earlier in the day.

“Sports has always been a unifying force for athletes from around the globe, while any form of discrimination against a country or athlete contradicts the Olympic Movement,” the Russian minister said. “This can all be confirmed by the previously voiced conclusions on behalf of UN international experts

“It is significant that the IOC’s proposal for the admission of Russian athletes had been supported by the overwhelming majority of the Olympic Movement’s members,” Matytsin noted.

Brussels Morning disagrees with Matytsin

The publication Brussels Morning disagrees with Matytsin. Tomáš Zdechovský wrote in his article titled, Russian participation in the Olympic Games means legitimizing war crimes he starts the first paragraph sharing the stories of Ukrainian athletes who were killed in the illegal conflict going on in Ukraine. The Russians took their lives.

“I want to mention the case of the young promising Ukrainian decathlete Volodymyr Androshchuk. He was killed while defending his country last January. Another athlete with the same destiny was a promising figure skater Dmitry Sharpar. Before the war, he participated in the Youth Olympic Games and longed to be at a real Olympics. His dream will not come true because he was killed near Bachmut on January 23rd.”