The International Olympic Committee has been criticised after it further paved the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games on Wednesday.
Last month, the Olympic Council of Asia gave its blessing for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in events under its jurisdiction in the run-up to the Paris 2024.
This was given the green light by IOC executive board members on Wednesday after consultation calls were held last week with members, the global network of athletes representatives, the International Federations and the National Olympic Committees.
Discussions on Wednesday focused on three key areas and among them was the possible access to sports competitions for individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports.
It was agreed by the IOC executive board that “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport” but that all those involved would compete as “neutral athletes”, assuming they fully respected the Olympic Charter and had not actively supported the war in Ukraine.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the IOC reacted with a recommendation that athletes from Russia and Belarus be barred from international sports competition but that is no longer the case almost 12 months later.
Reacting to Wednesday’s announcement, a joint-statement from Ukrainian Athletes and Global Athlete was critical of the IOC’s decision.
“Today’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifiers to attend the 2024 Paris Olympic Games sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorses Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine,” the joint statement read.
“The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition, especially the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, will see the Russian state use athletes once more to bolster the war effort and distract from the atrocities in Ukraine on one of the biggest multi-sport stages in the world.
Global Athlete & Ukrainian Athletes share the below statement in response to today’s decision by the IOC to lift the ban on Russian & Belarusian athletes for Olympic qualifying events & Paris 2024. 1/2 @iocmedia @Paralympics https://t.co/8VQeoPSH6b pic.twitter.com/35ytqRKQof
— Global Athlete (@GlobalAthleteHQ) January 25, 2023
“The suspension of both Russian and Belarusian athletes and their sporting officials must be fully reinstated until Russia withdraws completely from Ukraine.
“We acknowledge that reinstating the ban will pain many Russian and Belarusian athletes and will deny them an opportunity to pursue their careers on the world stage. We recognise that athletes are not the powerbrokers who are responsible for this war.
“Our call today is a hard stance with a real human cost. However, the cost on Russian and Belarusian athletes pales in comparison to the atrocities experienced by every single Ukrainian.”
The executive board of the IOC did agree on Wednesday that no international sports events could be held in Russia or Belarus while government or state officials from the two countries would not be invited to any sports events or meetings.
Solidarity was also expressed with Ukrainian athletes by the IOC executive board, who insisted it was unwavering in its commitment for the nation to have a “strong team” at both the Paris Games and Winter Olympics in 2026 despite its ongoing efforts with the war.