Over 30 nations pledge support for ban on Russia, Belarus competing in international events

by IANS |

New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) More than 30 like-minded nations have pledged their ongoing support for a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in international competitions, including the 2024 Olympic Games.

France -- hosts of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, 2021 hosts Japan, the 2026 Winter Olympics hosts Italy and the United States, which will host the 2028 Summer Olympics, are all among the countries involved.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced last month that it was "exploring a pathway" for athletes from the two nations competing in qualification events for Paris 2024 as neutrals.

But the 30 countries published a joint statement on Monday setting out their concern following recent proposals from the IOC which suggest a pathway is being explored to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition.

"We firmly believe that given there has been no change in the situation regarding the Russian aggression in Ukraine, and as an imperative for fairness and solidarity towards the Ukrainian athletes whose facilities have been destroyed and who have had to leave their country, there is no practical reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC in their statement of 28 February 2022."

The IOC called on federations to exclude athletes from Russia and Belarus following the invasion of Ukraine and banned the nations from the Winter Paralympics in March 2022 -- though athletes were allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

The UK Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer chaired a summit on February 10 of ministerial and senior representatives from a group of nations, who want the ban to remain.

Following the summit, Frazer in a statement said: "We agree that Putin cannot use sport to legitimise his actions on the world stage. This coalition of nations has supported Ukraine on multiple fronts and we will continue to do so.

"Any plans to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in Paris are not credible. With the prospect of tanks from the United Kingdom, United States and European partners arriving in Ukraine over the coming weeks, and President Zelenskyy expressing serious concerns that a spring offensive by Russia is imminent, we urge the IOC to reconsider its position."

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, made clear last month his belief that Russian athletes have no place at the Paris Olympics, which begins on July 26 and lasts until August 11, 2024, with the country's sports minister, Vadym Guttsait, suggesting to boycott the Games if Russian athletes are allowed to compete, even as neutrals.

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