Tall except a surprise. The decision, Friday, December 8, of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to authorize the Russians and Belarusians to participate under a neutral banner in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, surprised no one, as the organization based in Lausanne has been working since months to mark the return, under conditions, of athletes from the two countries banned since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in February 2022.
The timing, on the other hand, is surprising. Since the beginning of the year, the IOC seemed to be in control of time and impervious to international injunctions to make its position known. Thomas Bach and his teams have constantly repeated that they would decide on the participation of the Russians and the Belarusians, “at the appropriate time” and to their “sole discretion”.
Friday, two days before the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the UN, the boss of world sport put an end to more than eight months of suspense.
The IOC further emphasized in his press release that “strict admission conditions” fixed in its recommendation of March 28 remained valid: namely individual athletes – therefore no team –, under neutral status (no flag, no anthem and national colors), and provided that said athletes do not actively support the war in Ukraine nor are under contract with the military or national security agencies.
An “irresponsible decision” for kyiv
Ukraine was quick to react, through its sports minister who “strongly condemned the irresponsible decision of the IOC Executive Board”. “In war, you cannot hide behind the white flag of neutrality”, “synonymous with complicity with the assassins”denounced Matviy Bidniy on Friday in a press release, while he met in Paris with her French counterpart Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.
On Saturday, kyiv hit the nail on the head. “The members of the IOC Executive Board who made this decision take responsibility for having encouraged Russia and Belarus to continue their armed aggression against Ukraine”, said the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. Before adding: “There is no doubt that the Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda war”. An instrumentalization that Matviy Bidniy also condemned, in an interview with World End of november.
Ukraine “will decide later”, whether or not she participates in the Paris Games, recalled the Minister of Sports. The threat of a boycott has, however, receded since kyiv authorized its athletes in July to participate in international competitions in which hated athletes were fielded.
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