IOC Russia plan ‘a world away from reality of war’

IOC Russia plan ‘a world away from reality of war’

The IOC is working in plans to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete at the 2024 Games under a neutral flag

The International Olympic Committee’s plan to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at Paris 2024 has been condemned by Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan.

She said the move was a “world away from the reality of war”.

On Wednesday, the IOC said it would “explore a pathway” for Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation.

“We condemn any action that allows President Putin to legitimise his illegal war in Ukraine,” 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,” she added.

“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.”

The IOC previously asked sporting federations to exclude athletes from the countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. However, Wednesday’s statement said “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”.

Last month, Bach spoke of not wishing to punish individual athletes for the actions of their governments.

However, in response to the IOC statement, World Athletics stressed that athletes from those countries remained excluded from its events.

The athletics governing body outlined that Russian athletes were suspended over the country’s doping scandal and also – alongside Belarusian athletes – for the invasion of Ukraine.

It added that a taskforce will report in March on whether “the intensive work we have conducted in cleaning up athletics in Russia has now been sufficiently embraced for the doping-related suspension to be lifted.”

If that suspension is lifted, World Athletics said its council meeting would then consider the ongoing suspension of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in relation to the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian and Belarusian athletes will, though, be able to take part in this year’s Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has said, its statement adding: “All athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions.”

Meanwhile the International Paralympic Committee said it would “follow with interest” the IOC’s decision.

“We wish to reiterate that we hope and pray that the conflict comes to an end, that no more lives are taken, and that we can run sports and politics separately,” IPC president Andrew Parsons added.

Russia and Belarus were suspended by the IPC with immediate effect last year for their “inability to comply with membership obligations”.

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(With Inputs from BBC)