IOC supports Russian athletes returning as individuals, but there is no deadline for the Paris Olympics

Olympic officials refused to provide a timetable for the Russian and Belarusian athletes’ probable participation in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Paris on Tuesday, but they did urge that they return to compete as individual neutrals.

International federations and the organizers of international sporting events have been advised by the IOC Executive Council that “athletes having a Russian or a Belarusian passport must compete exclusively as Individual Neutral Athletes,” according to IOC President Thomas Bach.

The idea was instantly denounced as a “slap in the face” by German Minister of Sports Nancy Faeser, who claimed that Ukrainian sportsmen “deserve the solidarity of world sport.”

“World sport must categorically denounce Russia’s heinous war of aggression. Russian and Belarusian athletes must be completely excluded in order for this to be accomplished.”

The IOC stated, among other things — Bach claimed it was unanimously agreed upon — that “teams of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport cannot be considered.”

“Athletes who actively support the war” and “athletes who are employed by the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies” will also be excluded.

Bach emphasized that sanctions that were initially put in place after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 must still be in place against “those culpable for the conflict, the Russian and Belarusian states and governments.”

As a result, neither Russia nor Belarus are able to host an international sporting event on their soil.

Additionally, “no Russian or Belarusian government or state official can be invited to or credentialed for any international sports event or meeting,” and “no flag, anthem, colors, or any other identifications of these countries exhibited at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.”

“Opportune time”
A decision about Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in the 2026 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and Paris, however, would be made “at the appropriate moment,” according to Bach, addressing after the executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Bach stated that the IOC would make this choice at the proper moment, at its exclusive discretion, and without regard to the outcomes of earlier Olympic qualification events.

Additionally, “no Russian or Belarusian government or state official can be invited to or credentialed for any international sports event or meeting,” and “no flag, anthem, colors, or any other identifications of these countries exhibited at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.”

“Opportune time”
A decision about Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in the 2026 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and Paris, however, would be made “at the appropriate moment,” according to Bach, addressing after the executive board meeting in Lausanne.

Bach stated that the IOC would make this choice at the proper moment, at its exclusive discretion, and without regard to the outcomes of earlier Olympic qualification events.

The IOC will closely monitor the full implementation of these recommendations by all parties concerned.

The IOC’s decision regarding the participation of athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026 will be heavily influenced by the findings of this monitoring mechanism.

Bach, who won Olympic fencing team gold in 1976, has previously been urged to uphold the ban on Russian and Belarusian competitors by more than 300 active and former fencers.

The FIE, the international governing body for fencing, decided this month to reopen fencing competition to athletes from Russia and Belarus, making it the first Olympic sport to do so.

The fencers wrote a scathing letter accusing Bach and Emmanuel Katsiadakis, temporary president of their federation, of prioritizing Russians over Ukrainians. They also rejected the idea of neutrality, claiming that “athletes were and will be instrumentalized for Putin’s propaganda.”

AFP

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