Ukraine keeps up the pressure to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics
Ukraine is echoing the fervor it used to secure heavy tanks and other weapons from allies in a campaign to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating at the 2024 Summer Olympics
Ukraine is echoing the fervor it used to secure heavy tanks and other weapons from allies in a campaign to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating at the 2024 Summer Olympics.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has made it a topic of his nightly address several times in recent days, calling out the head of the International Olympic Committee by name. He has written a letter to President Emmanuel Macron of France, the host nation of the Games. And he has raised the subject with the leader of Denmark and the president-elect of the Czech Republic.
On Tuesday, he made his latest plea to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium.
“The Olympic movement and international sport in general must be protected from Russia’s usual attempts to politicize sports,” Mr. Zelensky said in his nightly address on Tuesday. “Russian politicization of sports will inevitably mean justification of terror. This must not be allowed.”
The relentless nature of Mr. Zelensky’s message about the Olympics mirrors his approach to lobbying the United States and Europe for advanced weapons: constant public pleas and accusations of complicity. Each time, those nations have agreed to the requests, sometimes begrudgingly.
Now, Mr. Zelensky’s ire is turned on the Olympics. On paper, the games are intended to be free of geopolitics, though they are often an undercurrent. But sports organizations — including for tennis, figure skating, and track and field — have struggled with their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last month, Russian and Belarusian flags were banned from the Australian Open tennis tournament after fans displayed a Russian flag at a match between a Russian and Ukrainian athlete.
The International Olympic Committee said last week that it would continue to explore ways for athletes from Russia and Belarus, which has supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to compete in the 2024 Games in Paris. One option could be for athletes to compete individually and not bear their countries’ names, flags or colors, as long as they had not actively supported the war.
Wladimir Klitschko, the former heavyweight boxing champion and the brother of Kyiv’s mayor, Vitali Klitschko, publicly warned Thomas Bach, the head of the I.O.C., that he and the I.O.C. were risking being “an accomplice to this abominable war.”
Russia has been banned from international sports competitions since 2019 because of a doping scandal, though individual athletes have been allowed to compete at the Olympics.
The Russian delegation has been appealing for full participation in the Paris Games, but the I.O.C. on Tuesday rejected calls to allow the country’s athletes to compete without restrictions.
A day earlier, Mykhailo Podolyak, a top adviser to Mr. Zelensky, accused the Olympic committee of offering Russia “a platform to promote genocide.” The I.O.C. called his comments “defamatory” in a statement, saying they could not “serve as a basis for any constructive discussion.”
The leader of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, said that restrictions like rendering athletes ineligible if they had supported the war, would be “unacceptable,”, according to TASS, a Russian state-run news agency.
“Russians should be allowed to compete under the same conditions as athletes from other countries,” he said. “There should be no direct reference at all stipulating whether to approve or disapprove this special military operation.”
The I.O.C. responded to Mr. Pozdnyakov’s comments by calling its sanctions on Russia and Belarus “not negotiable.” It also reasserted rules that bar the countries from hosting I.O.C.-affiliated sporting events, among other restrictions.
Ukraine has gained some support for its position, including from officials in Britain and Germany.
Anushka Patil / The New York Times