IOC should consider banning Russia from Paris 2024 Olympics, 34 countries urge
With no ‘clarity and and concrete detail’ on neutral athletes model, Russians and Belarusians shouldn’t be allowed in, countries say.
The governments of 34 countries, including host nation France, called on the International Olympic Committee to exclude Russia and Belarus from the Paris 2024 Olympics — unless Games chiefs unveil a clear “workable” plan for athletes to compete as neutrals.
The IOC has said it would explore a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris under neutral flags, a move that triggered outrage in Kyiv — and has now been met with a concrete response among Ukraine’s allies.
In a statement published Monday, the 34 countries noted the links between sports and the military in Russia and Belarus, and said: “As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition.”
In addition, “in Russia and Belarus sport and politics are closely intertwined,” the countries said.
Representatives of the German, British and American governments are signatories to the letter, but it is France’s inclusion that will cause the IOC its biggest headache, with Paris set to host the Olympics for the first time since 1924.
Other signatories include: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden.
Amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ongoing brutality in Ukraine, “there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC in their statement of 28 February 2022,” the statement said.
“We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ — under the IOC’s conditions of no identification with their country — when they are directly funded and supported by their states (unlike, for example, professional tennis players),” the statement added.
“The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern,” the countries said. “Our collective approach throughout has therefore never been one of discrimination simply on the basis of nationality, but these strong concerns need to be dealt with by the IOC.”
“Noting the IOC’s stated position that no final decisions have been made, we strongly urge the IOC to address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly,” they added. “We also note that Russia and Belarus have it in their own hands to pave the way for their athletes’ full return to the international sports community, namely by ending the war they started.”
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Games if the IOC green-lights Russia’s return — and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has repeatedly criticized the IOC, which is the ultimate decision-maker on participation.
Zelenskyy joined a meeting on February 10 with representatives of governments who went on to sign the letter, where he outlined the “devastation” inflicted by Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine, including its sports infrastructure and athletes.
The IOC did not immediately comment — though earlier this month it said that banning athletes on the basis of their passports would be discrimination, citing advice from U.N. human rights experts.
“Lithuania will do everything to prevent participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in the Paris Olympics,” said Lithuanian Sports Minister Jurgita Šiugždinienė.