New demands in a new letter to the IOC on the Russian file

Participation in the Paris Olympics and other events for Russian and Belarusian athletes has been a hot topic in 2024. Photo: Lewis Joy/AP/NTB

By NTB | 20.02.2023 16:15:33

Policy: The IOC has authorized Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris Olympics next year under special conditions, in particular that they must take place under a neutral flag and without national symbols. It has been criticized, including by the European Parliament.

More than 30 governments met and sent a letter to the IOC, which the AP news agency had access to. The letter is signed by major Olympic nations such as Britain, the United States, France, Canada and Germany, and all of them want answers to one thing: a clearer definition of neutrality.

– Until these fundamental questions and the significant lack of clarity and concrete details on a viable neutrality model are resolved, we do not agree to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to be allowed to compete, the letter states.

– We are deeply concerned about the possibility of Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes competing as neutrals while being funded and supported by their states, the letter continues.

When war broke out last year, the IOC banned Russians from competing. Then the athlete safety argument was used. That changed earlier this year. Bach said last week that the IOC stands in solidarity with Ukrainian athletes, but also that sport must respect the human rights of all athletes.

– History will tell who does the most for peace. Those who try to keep lines open and communicate, or those who want to isolate or divide, Bach said.

Bach also warned against government interference in sport.

– We take human rights concerns seriously and must take them into account… It is not for governments to decide who can participate in sporting events. It would be the end of international sports competitions and the world championships and Olympic Games as we know them today. All of this is included in our balance sheet, the German IOC top continued at the Alpine Skiing World Championships in France last week.

The letter is the result of the February 10 summit in London between heads of government, which received input from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

In Monday’s letter from the various nations, it was also said that the quickest way for Russia to return to the international sporting scene would be to “end the war it started”.

(© NTB)