— Published 21 February 2023

Coalition calls for clarification on Russia issue

The opposition is organizing, in Europe in particular, to block the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Paris 2024 Games. After a meeting held on Friday, February 10 by videoconference, at the initiative of Great Britain, a coalition of about thirty countries asked the IOC to clarify its position on the neutrality of the two delegations in case of participation in the next Summer Games. The request is expressed in a letter sent Monday, February 20 to the Olympic body. “We are very worried about the feasibility for the Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to participate as “neutral”, while they are financed and supported by their states, insists the document. We firmly believe, given that the situation has not changed regarding Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, that there is no reason to reverse the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes decided by the IOC. As long as these fundamental issues, as well as the cruel lack of clarity and concrete details on the definition of “neutrality” are not addressed, we do not accept that Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to return to competition. We urgently call on the IOC to address these issues targeted by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly.” The United States, Britain, France, Canada and Germany are among the signatories of the letter sent to the IOC. Between them, these five countries of the coalition represent nearly a fifth of the total athletes present at the Tokyo 2020 Games. The document does not mention the threat of a boycott of the Games of Paris 2024, brandished these last weeks by Ukraine, but also by the Baltic and Scandinavian countries. But the letter sent Monday to the IOC suggests it: the fastest way for Russia to return to the international sports scene would be “to end the war it has started.