UK urges Olympic sponsors to support Russia ban

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The UK Government has urged companies sponsoring the Olympics to pressure organisers to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at next year’s games in Paris.

The council of World Athletics is meeting from March 21-23 and is expected to lift its ban imposed on Russia as part of the state-run doping scandal, but it will have a second vote on whether to maintain Russia’s total exclusion from competition imposed after the invasion of Ukraine.

In January, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sports federations to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to international competitions provided that they competed as "neutrals" and had not overtly supported the war.

In response, British culture secretary Lucy Frazer has written a letter to the UK chief executives of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors including Coca-Cola, Samsung and Visa.

The letter reads: “We know sport and politics in Russia and Belarus are heavily intertwined, and we are determined that the regimes in Russia and Belarus must not be allowed to use sport for their propaganda purposes.

“As long as our concerns and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition.”

Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes compete.

More than 30 nations, including the UK, the United States, France and Germany, have pledged their support for a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes to stay in place while the war in Ukraine continues.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, made clear in January his belief that Russian athletes have "no place" at the Paris Olympics, which begin on 26 July 2024, with the country’s sports minister, Vadym Guttsait, suggesting his country could boycott the Olympics if Russian athletes are allowed to compete, even as neutrals.