May 30, 2023

Paris 2024: Ukraine’s boycott of qualifying events ‘raises serious questions’, says the IOC

Russia flag at Olympics Games
The International Olympic Committee has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete but only under a neutral flag

Ukraine’s decision to boycott Paris 2024 Olympics qualifying events if Russians are taking part “raises serious questions”, says the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The IOC has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to compete under a neutral flag.

But it has yet to make a decision on the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024.

“If implemented, such a decision would hurt only the Ukrainian athlete community,” said the IOC in response to Ukraine’s stance.

“It would in no way impact the war that the world wants to stop, and that the IOC has so vehemently condemned.

“This raises serious questions about the autonomy of Ukrainian sport. The IOC has always maintained that it is not up to governments to decide which athletes can participate in which international competitions.”

The IOC added that the decision goes against “the position of a number of Ukrainian athletes and other members of the Ukrainian Olympic community”.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in January that Russian athletes should have “no place” at the Paris Games.

And at the beginning of April, minister Nemchinov indicated that any Ukrainian sporting body allowing athletes to compete in qualifying events against Russians could lose its national status.

But the IOC says that any athlete choosing to compete “could count on the direct support of the Olympic Movement’s Solidarity Fund”.

A statement from the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) said it “expressed alarm” at the boycott.

“Any government calls for boycotts represent a direct interference in the autonomy of sport,” it said.

“These will only contribute to the isolation of National Olympic Committees from the global sporting community and will directly affect the dreams and aspirations of athletes.”

World Aquatics supports IOC’s stance

World Aquatics says it has set up a taskforce to explore the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes competing under a neutral flag at its international events.

It added its support for the IOC’s recommendation of the same stance.

But it is in contrast to World Athletics’ ruling which says Russian athletes remain banned “for the foreseeable future”.

“The taskforce, made up of athletes and representatives from across the aquatics community, will begin work immediately on developing a recommendation to the World Aquatics Bureau,” World Aquatics said.

In 2022, World Aquatics moved the short-course world swimming championships from Kazan, Russia, to Melbourne.

Kazan has been replaced by Singapore for the 2025 World Aquatics Championships.

The taskforce will report its findings to the World Aquatics Bureau in July, which makes it unlikely that any Russian or Belarusian athletes will compete in the World Swimming Championships which take place in Fukuoka, Japan, between 14-30 July.

Equestrian maintains Russia and Belarus ban

The International Equestrian Federation (FEI) announced on Wednesday that a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, horses and officials from participating in its events will remain in place until further notice.

The FEI introduced the measure in March 2022 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

FEI president Ingmar de Vos said the board discussed the IOC’s proposal for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals but agreed that “at this stage neutrality cannot be defined and evaluated in a sufficiently satisfactory way”.

De Vos added that no events organised in Russia and Belarus will be entered in the FEI calendar for 2023.