Ukraine will consider boycotting next year’s Olympic Games in Paris if athletes from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete, the country’s Sports Minister Vadym Guttsait has warned.
It followed the confirmation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday that they were continuing to “explore a pathway” for Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at Paris 2024 under a neutral banner.
Guttsait, also President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine (NOCU), has vowed they will do everything they can to ensure Russia and Belarus are not represented in any form in the French capital.
“For the whole Ukrainian sports community, this is a question of principle!” Guttsait wrote on his Facebook page.
“In this, we are supported by both the President of our state, and all society.
“Part of the International Federations are outraged by the IOC’s efforts to promote the return of Russians and Belarusians.
“We have addressed and will address all international organizations that can influence the situation and whose opinions the IOC members can listen to.”
Earlier this week, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had urged his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to help ensure they are not represented at next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
It followed insidethegames’ exclusive revelation that Guttsait had told IOC President Thomas Bach during a conference call involving several National Olympic Committees that athletes from Russia were serving in the country’s armed forces and they were “killing our people”.
“Our position is unchanged: as long as there is a war in Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes should not be in international competitions!!!” Guttsait wrote on Facebook.
“Certainly, our national sporting federations need to strengthen communication with international federations to keep the ban in effect.
“Work is currently underway on further possible steps and first steps to continue sanctions and prevent Russians and Belarusians from international competitions.
“If we are not heard, I do not rule out the possibility that we will boycott and refuse participation in the Olympics.”
There was support for the IOC position from Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
“I think this is a moment for athletes and that athletes should not be deprived of their competition,” she told television channel France 2.
“But I think and I plead, like a large part of the sports movement, so that there is no delegation under the Russian banner.”
The Olympic Council of Asia reaffirmed their invitation to athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in qualifying competitions, while the European Olympic Committees said in a statement that it “does not feel athletes should be prevented from competing solely on the basis of which passport they hold.”
But the United Kingdom Government, which has been Ukraine’s biggest supporter since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine last February with Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak both having visited Kyiv, criticised the IOC position.
“We condemn any action that allows President Putin to legitimise his illegal war in Ukraine,” the UK’s Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said.
“This position from the IOC is a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people – and IOC President [Thomas] 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, and many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently across like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity continues on this issue.”