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Allowing Russian athletes at Olympics would be ‘extreme hypocrisy’: Polish deputy FM

28.03.2023 11:00
A Polish deputy foreign minister has said that allowing Russian athletes to take part in the Olympic Games would be an act of “extreme hypocrisy,” since one of the core Olympic values is peace, which Russia has violated by attacking Ukraine.  
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

Paweł Jabłoński made the remark in an interview published on Tuesday by Polish state news agency PAP.

On Monday, Poland’s foreign ministry said in a statement that "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."

"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 Polish foreign ministry said in its statement, which it issued jointly with its counterparts in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Britain.

‘There should be a total ban' on Russian and Belarusian athletes

In the interview with the PAP news agency, Jabłoński said that athletes from Russia and Belarus "should not be allowed to take part in sporting events whether under their national flags or under a neutral one." 

He said: ”These people are often soldiers. They have military rank and fully serve the Russian regime, apparatus of power and war machine. There is no reason whatsoever why people who support crimes, who support the aggression against Ukraine, should be allowed to participate in sports events. There should be a total ban.”        

'Sport is the essence of propaganda'

Jabłoński warned that, for Russian President Vladimir Putin, “sport is the essence of propaganda” and a tool “used for political ends,” and this “shouldn’t be allowed.”

According to the Polish deputy foreign minister, even if Russian athletes are only allowed to compete under a neutral flag, "the Kremlin will later use this for propaganda purposes, to consolidate its power.”

Jabłoński said that the participation of Russian athletes in international events “is framed to the Russian public as proof that there is no isolation because Russians are still permitted to compete and they can win against athletes from other countries.”

Paweł Jabłoński. Paweł Jabłoński. Photo: PAP/Zbigniew Meissner

Jabłoński told the PAP news agency that the Polish government was in talks "at the level of sports ministries" to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Paris Olympics.

"We hope to be able to ensure that athletes from aggressor countries are not allowed to take part in the Olympic Games,” he said in the interview.

Olympic values, above all peace

Jabłoński said that the International Olympic Committee “represents Olympic values, above all peace.”

He added: “Peace is the overarching value represented by all Olympic athletes, so it would be extreme hypocrisy if an aggressor country was allowed to field its representatives, even under a neutral flag.”

The IOC slapped restrictions on Russia and Belarus on February 28, 2022, in the immediate aftermath of the Kremlin’s full-blown invasion of Ukraine, according to news outlets. 

However, the organisation is reluctant to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris for fear of a return of Cold War-era boycotts, the PAP news agency reported. 

The IOC is considering allowing them to compete on a neutral basis, without the right to display national colours or have the national anthem played, according to officials.

The IOC’s members include former Olympic and world pole vault champion Yelena Isinbayeva, who is a Russian army major and worked for Putin during the 2018 presidential campaign, the PAP news agency reported.

Another IOC member from Russia is Shamil Tarpishchev, a top tennis official who also serves as Putin’s sports adviser, according to PAP.    

'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.

Tuesday is day 398 of Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Source: PAP, olympics.com

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