Sports ministers to discuss IOC plans to allow Russian athletes at 2024 Olympics
The British Government will be involved in a virtual meeting of global sports ministers next Friday to consider a response to the prospect of Russian athletes competing at the Paris Olympics next year.
The International Olympic Committee is working on a pathway to enable Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to Olympic qualification events as neutrals, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The IOC initially recommended that international sports federations exclude athletes from those countries in the days following the invasion last February.
However, its president Thomas Bach has repeatedly insisted that was a measure designed to protect those athletes, and is adamant no athlete should be discriminated against based on the passport they hold.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan told the House of Commons 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.”
The PA news agency understands next Friday’s meeting is intended to ensure solidarity continues on this issue in light of developments at the IOC.
The meeting is expected to be attended by ministers who have signed up to previous collective statements on this issue. Representatives from 34 countries in addition to the UK co-signed a statement issued following a similar meeting last July.
The IOC warned on Thursday any boycott of the Games by Ukraine – which has been threatened by the country’s sports minister – would only serve to harm Ukrainian athletes and that a boycott by Ukraine and other countries would go against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.
On Friday, cycling’s global federation the UCI endorsed the IOC position on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The UCI’s management committee said on Friday it would support the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials under strict conditions around neutrality and adherence to the Olympic Charter.