IOC president defends Russia stance as he insists organisation shares Ukraine “suffering”

1 month ago The Mirror

The IOC has faced a wave of criticism for the potential plans that could see Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under neutral flags at the Olympic Games

The president of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach has doubled down on the organisation’s stance on Russia.

In January, the IOC suggested Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete under neutral flags a the Paris Olympic Games, saying "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport". The potential move has been hit with a wave of controversy but Bach has been standing firm.

He said allowing governments to decide who participates would "be the end of international sport competitions and Olympic Games as we know it". On the other hand, during an appearance at the World Ski Championships on Sunday, the German also shared sympathy with the Ukrainians whose country is in turmoil after Russia's invasion a year ago.

When asked if the organisation could be on the wrong side of history by allowing the Russians to compete at the next Olympics, the 59-year-old said: "No. We are trying to find a solution that is giving justice to the mission of sport, which is to unify, not to contribute to more confrontation.

"Every Ukrainian athlete can be rest assured that we are standing in full solidarity with them and that all their comments are taken very, very seriously into consideration. With every Ukrainian athlete, we can, from a human point of view, understand their reactions, we share their suffering.

"But with regard to participation of athletes we have to accomplish our peace mission and that is a unifying mission of bringing people together. We can from a human point of view understand their reactions, we share their suffering.”

He added: “Every Ukrainian athlete can be rest assured that we are standing in full solidarity with them and that all their comments are taken very, very seriously into consideration." After President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine last February, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ordered organisers and international sports bodies to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international events.

However, the governing body appear to have backtracked slightly on their tough stance as they assembled late last month to state they are exploring the potential for competitors from both nations to be allowed to compete as neutral athletes in Paris - a move which has been criticised by many. In response, newly appointed UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer hosted 36 nations on Friday to discuss the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the next Olympics in Paris.


Mikhail Klimentyev/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Mikhail Klimentyev/AP/REX/Shutterstock)

Ukraine threatened to boycott the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes compete - a stance which has been backed by several countries. On Saturday Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin said calls to ban their athletes from the Olympics were unacceptable.

"Now we see an undisguised desire to destroy the unity of international sports and the international Olympic movement, to make sport a means of pressure to resolve political issues," Matytsin told Russian news agency Tass.

"Our mission is a peace mission," Bach added. "History will show who is doing more for peace, the ones who try to keep lines open and communicate or the ones who want to isolate and divide."

On Thursday, the IOC urged Ukraine to drop threats of boycotting Paris 2024, with Bach telling the country's Olympic Committee that such threats are "extremely regrettable". In a letter to Ukraine's youth and sports minister Vadym Guttsait, Bach said threatening a boycott is "premature" because the IOC has not discussed the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals in "concrete terms yet".

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