Ukraine renews its threat to boycott the Olympics if the Russians participate
Ukraine’s sports minister on Friday renewed the country’s threat to boycott the Paris Olympics next summer if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete, and said his country would continue to rally like-minded allies to add weight to a threat that represents a serious crisis for the Olympic movement.
Ukrainian official Vadym Guttsait has said that if Ukraine fails to persuade international sports officials to ban Russian athletes, the country should, in his view, “skip the Olympics”. Guttsait said Ukrainians “did not want to see or meet” Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports competitions, including the Olympics, as long as the war persisted.
The comments came a week after the International Olympic Committee said it was exploring ways to admit athletes from Russia and Belarus, who supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine even as war rages on. continues.
Ukrainian officials reacted angrily to the proposal and immediately raised the prospect of an Olympic boycott, a concept that has received support from some of Ukraine’s neighbors but also powerful allies in Western Europe. Poland’s sports minister said on Thursday he planned to bring together a coalition of no less than 40 countries – “including those of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan” – to reject the idea of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Paris Games.
Until a final decision is made, Guttsait said, he urged sports officials, athletes and others to push for a continued ban. He called on officials from different sports to contact their counterparts abroad and said further talks would take place with European sports ministers on February 10. “We have to work on everyone,” he said.
The Ukrainian threat is a crisis for the Olympic movement ahead of the start of a crucial qualifying period for the Games. Asia’s Olympic sports organization said it would consider hosting Russian athletes in qualifying competitions amid continued opposition in Europe, even though its own members have expressed concern over the idea , unsure if it would take Olympic spots away from Asian athletes. And this week’s crisis has led the International Olympic Committee to level unusual public rebukes at Russia and Ukraine.
On Tuesday, the IOC reminded Russia’s top Olympic official, who had suggested that his country’s athletes should not be subject to different rules, that the sanctions currently in place were “non-negotiable.” Two days later, in a lengthy Q&A posted on its website, the Olympic Committee chastised Ukrainian Olympic officials, saying it was “extremely regrettable to escalate this discussion with a threat of boycott at this stage. premature”.
To justify its position, the IOC cited the opinion of United Nations-related rights experts who supported its view that athletes should not be penalized by the passport they hold.
On Friday, the head of the Paris Olympics Organizing Committee, Tony Estanguet, voiced support for the IOC’s position, saying individual athletes were “not at all involved in these decisions at the moment and personally , I think they should not suffer the consequences of decisions that do not concern them.
“We hope that as many delegations and athletes as possible can fulfill their dream of participating in the Games,” he told Agence France-Presse in Marseille, southern France.
Russian teams continue to be banned from other major sports, but the status of individual athletes has been less clear, with many sports including tennis allowing athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in events without a flag or affiliation to their country of origin.
Football leaders recently extended a ban on Russian teams taking part in international and club competitions shortly after the start of the war. But that ban only came into effect after several countries said they would refuse to face Russian opponents.
The latest proposal to host Russia and its athletes is in line with the IOC’s treatment of Russia following revelations that it corrupted multiple Olympics and world championships with a state-sponsored doping program involving thousands of athletes. After initially threatening the harshest sanctions, the IOC eventually backed down, allowing Russian athletes and teams to compete in the recent Summer and Winter Olympics, ostensibly as neutrals.