IOC warns Ukraine against Olympic boycott
Ukrainian athletes would be the only ones to suffer if the country acted on a threat to boycott Paris 2024 over the participation of Russian athletes, the International Olympic Committee has warned.
The IOC is working with international sports federations and national Olympic committees to develop a pathway enabling Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals under strict conditions, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, has said Russian athletes should have “no place” at the Games and the country’s sports minister Vadim Guttsait has said Ukraine would consider a boycott if the IOC pressed ahead.
The IOC took a dim view of that approach and in a question-and-answer document published on Thursday, said: “It is extremely regretful to escalate this discussion with a threat of a boycott at this premature stage.
“The participation of individual, neutral athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 has not been discussed yet.
“Threatening a boycott of the Olympic Games, which the NOC of Ukraine is currently considering, goes against the fundamentals of the Olympic movement and the principles it stands for.
“A boycott is a violation of the Olympic charter, which obliges all NOCs to ‘participate in the Games of the Olympiad by sending athletes’. As history has shown, previous boycotts did not achieve their political ends and served only to punish the athletes of the boycotting NOCs.”
The IOC executive board recommended in February last year, in the days after the invasion was launched, that international sports federations exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from their events.
However, IOC president Thomas Bach has since said that was only intended as a “protective” measure towards those athletes, and now insists they should not be discriminated against because of their passport.
The British Government, which has been a key ally of Ukraine since the conflict began, criticised the IOC stance.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said last week: “I want to be clear that this position from the IOC is a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people – and IOC president Bach’s own words less than a year ago where he strongly condemned Russia for breaking the Olympic truce and urged it to ‘give peace a chance’.
“We will strongly condemn any action taken that allows president Putin to legitimise his illegal war in Ukraine – a position the IOC previously shared.
“We, and many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently across like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity continues on this issue.”