Both Russia and Ukraine ‘diametrically opposed’ to Olympic mission, says IOC president

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International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has lamented Ukraine and Russia’s “diametrically opposed” views on neutral athletes’ participation in a speech at the 140th IOC Session.

In March, the IOC announced a widely criticized recommended pathway to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international competitions despite the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

So far, no decision has been taken on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“Despite offering a workable pathway forward with our values-based recommendations, we are still confronted with two irreconcilable positions,” Bach said during the remote session on Thursday.

“The Russian side wants us to ignore the war. The Ukrainian side wants us to totally isolate anyone with a Russian and Belarusian passport. Either position is diametrically opposed to our mission and the Olympic Charter.

“We have the Russian side that considers the strict conditions to be unacceptable, humiliating and discriminatory. The Russian government accuses us of acting against our political neutrality, while at the same time this very same government is shamelessly trying to put together fully politicized sport competitions.

“We have the Ukrainian side that denounces us for siding with Russia. Their government insists on ‘total isolation’ of all Russians and Belarusians, because they consider everyone with a Russian or Belarusian passport to be a supporter of the war. This even goes as far as banning athletes with intellectual disabilities at the ongoing Special Olympics.”

Bach also reiterated the IOC’s “condemnation of the war from the first day” and stressed its “guiding principle is contributing to peace through the unifying mission of sport.”

He criticized the Ukraine government for “sanctioning its own athletes” after the country decided in March to boycott Olympic qualifying events in which Russians are competing.

“It is hard to understand why the Ukrainian government is depriving their own athletes from their chance to qualify for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and to make the Ukrainian people proud,” Bach said, expressing the desire to make it possible for every Ukrainian to be able to qualify and participate in the 2024 Games.

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