(CTN NEWS) – With next year’s Paris 2024 Olympics approaching and Russia’s invasion seeming more like a prolonged battle.
Ukraine’s sports minister on Friday threatened to boycott the games if Russia and Belarus are permitted to compete and said Kyiv would persuade other nations to join.
This might cause the largest Olympic split since the Cold War.
No country has boycotted the 2024 Summer Games. Poland, the Baltic nations, and Denmark opposed an International Olympic Committee plan to let Russia and Belarus compete in Paris as “neutral athletes” without flags or anthems.
“We cannot compromise on the entrance of Russian and Belarusian athletes,” said Ukrainian Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait, who also chairs its national Olympic committee, citing attacks on his country, athlete deaths, and sports facility devastation.
His group endorsed measures to persuade world sports officials in the next two months, including a possible boycott.
Huttsait continued, “As a last alternative, but I note that this is my own opinion, if we do not succeed, then we will have to boycott the Olympic Games.”
After a career defined by conflicts over Russia’s status—first over major doping scandals and now over the crisis in Ukraine—outgoing IOC head Thomas Bach is looking to his legacy at the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Bach’s opinions were molded when West Germany, where he won a fencing gold medal, joined the U.S.-led boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He’s always criticized that decision.
Russia cautiously hailed the IOC’s decision to provide it a road to the Olympics but demanded it delete a provision that would exclude athletes “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.”
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, Russian Olympic Committee head and Huttsait’s 1992 Olympic teammate, considered that discriminatory.
The IOC, which previously proposed removing Russia and Belarus from international sports for safety reasons, now claims it cannot discriminate against countries based on citizenship.
The leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania asked the IOC to ban Russia and threatened a boycott.
Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said, “I think that our attention should be on convincing our other friends and partners that the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is wrong.” Boycotting is next. People will understand.”
The IOC stated that “this threat of a boycott simply contributes to the greater aggravation of the issue, not only in sport but also in the larger society.” Politicians utilizing athletes and sports to achieve their goals is regrettable.
It continued bluntly: “Why penalize athletes from your country for the Russian government instigating the war?”
Poland’s sports minister Kamil Bortniczuk said 40 countries might unanimously oppose Russian and Belarusian participation at Paris next week without threatening a boycott. He told state media PAP that the IOC was “naive” and should reconsider.
“As long as their attacks on Ukraine continue,” Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt wants Russian athletes banned from all international sports.
“We cannot waiver on Russia. Government policy is clear. He suggested Russia must be blacklisted. This relates to neutral-flagged Russian athletes. The IOC’s line doubts are inexplicable.”
Paris 2024 Olympics organizing committee president Tony Estanguet declined to comment “on political decisions” when The Associated Press asked about the boycott threats and IOC plan.
In Marseille, he remarked, “My responsibility is to make sure that all athletes who wish to participate will be afforded the finest conditions in terms of security, to offer them the chance to live their dream.”
Last year, Ukraine boycotted sports against Russia.
“Our flag is at the Olympic Games; it is very important for us that our athletes are on the podium,” Huttsait said of a boycott. To demonstrate that our Ukraine was is, and will be.”
In Kyiv, Olympic artistic swimming bronze winner Marta Fedina, 21, said she was “ready for a boycott.”
She remarked of Russian players, “How would I explain to our defenders if I am even present on the same sports ground with these people.” When Moscow conquered Kharkiv, her swimming pool was destroyed.
The Ukrainian Olympic Committee’s assembly meeting voiced worries about Moscow utilizing Paris for propaganda and the strong relationships between some athletes and the Russian military.
“It should be completely apparent that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday if athletes from the two countries compete. 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
The IOC’s plan would make Paris the fourth consecutive Olympics without the Russian flag or anthem. The Russian teams for the 2018 and 2022 Winter Olympics and 2021 Summer Olympics were affected by doping cases.
When North Korea and other nations declined to participate in the Summer Games in South Korea in 1988, it was the last time that several nations boycotted an Olympics.
North Korea skipped the 2021 Tokyo Games due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Since teams must attend every Olympics, the IOC prohibited it from the Beijing Winter Games.
The IOC’s suggestion to let Russia and Belarus compete set the tone of the argument, but the 32-sport Paris program’s governing bodies must make judgments.
Many of those organizations are based in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the IOC is headquartered. They administer their own qualifying and Olympic contests and determine athlete and team eligibility.
The International Cycling Union agreed to the IOC’s idea to let Russian and Belarusian competitors compete as “neutrals” in Olympic qualifying events.
Most sports excluded Russian athletes and teams, including World Athletics and FIFA, within days of the war. Many Russians and Belarusians competed as neutrals in tennis and cycling.
Other governing bodies follow the IOC or have strong business and political links to Russia.
ASOIF’s March 3 Lausanne meeting may be important. World Athletics president Sebastian Coe and former IOC member Francesco Ricci Bitti head it.
ASOIF denied comment Friday but underlined this week “the significance of respecting the distinctiveness of each federation and their particular qualification process” for Paris.
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