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Poland renews push to ban Russian, Belarusian athletes from Olympics

27.03.2023 16:00
Poland on Monday renewed its push to ban Russia and Belarus from international sports competitions, calling on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to scrap plans to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in next year's Olympic Games in Paris under a neutral flag.
A rally in front of the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland against a plan by the International Olympic Committee to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Olympics under a neutral flag.
A rally in front of the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland against a plan by the International Olympic Committee to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the Olympics under a neutral flag.Photo: EPA/JEAN-CHRISTOPHE BOTT

"As we are approaching the next meeting of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee on March 28-30, 2023, we wish to reiterate Ukraine’s position on the IOC recent calls to explore the pathways for participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in competitions as 'neutral athletes,'" the Polish foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

"We took note of the concerns raised by the UN Special Rapporteurs on the issue of non-discrimination based solely on the nationality of athletes," it added.

"We regret that the IOC used these concerns as a pretext to reverse radically its previous well-argued stance on the recommendation not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions," the statement said.

"We wish to stress that it is not athletes’ nationality that determines their role, but the fact that they are sponsored/supported by their governments or businesses backing up the Kremlin regime, which continues its war of aggression against Ukraine, or even they are affiliated with the Russian military directly."

The Polish foreign ministry pointed out that "day by day, the Russian military keeps attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure including sports facilities and killing Ukrainians including Ukrainian athletes."

It said "millions of Ukrainian citizens, including athletes and their families, were forced to leave their homes in the face of Russia’s occupation."

Many athletes from Ukraine "are still prevented from participating in sport events because of Russia’s attack on their country," it added.

"There exists not a single reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC more than a year ago, immediately after the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion into Ukraine," the Polish foreign ministry also said in its statement.

"We strongly believe that now is not the time to consider the opening up of a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the Olympic Games in any status," the statement added.

"While the IOC has made no final decisions yet, we strongly urge it to reconsider its plans and return to the original well-proven stance supported by the international community," the Polish foreign ministry further stated.

It concluded that "Russia and Belarus have at their disposal a way forward for their athletes to return to the international sports community, namely ending the war of aggression launched by Russia with complicity of Belarus and restoring respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders."

'Ambassadors of death'

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that Russian athletes will seek to justify Moscow's war against his country if they are allowed to take part in next year's Olympic Games.

"If Russian athletes appear at international competitions, it is only a matter of time before they start justifying Russia's aggression and using the symbols of terror," Zelensky said in late January, as quoted by Ukrainian state news agency Ukrinform.

Zelensky's top aide Mykhailo Podolyak has accused the IOC of promoting what he called "Russian anti-human policy," saying in a Twitter post that Russian athletes would be "ambassadors of death" if allowed to compete.

The IOC said in January that the Olympic Council of Asia had offered Russian and Belarusian athletes the chance to compete in this year's Asian Games, giving them a qualification pathway for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the Reuters news agency reported at the time.

Russia, Belarus should be banned from 2024 Olympics: Polish sports minister

Poland's Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said earlier this year that Russia and its ally Belarus should not be allowed to take part in next year's Olympics.

He added that if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete in the Paris Games, Poland could build an international coalition to boycott the event.

Monday is day 397 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: IAR, PAPgov.pl

Click on the audio player above to listen to a report by Radio Poland's Ada Janiszewska.