The president of Ukraine, Volodymir Zelenskyy, asked on Friday that Russia and Belarus not be allowed to participate in the next Olympic Games, even under a neutral flag, in a telematic meeting held on Friday with 35 nations from all over the world.
Zelenskyy, who traveled to London and Brussels this week to meet with different world leaders to ask for their help in stopping Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, insisted that Russia and Belarus cannot participate in the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics because of their involvement in the war.
“Terror and the Olympics are two opposite things, they cannot be mixed,” the Ukrainian president told the meeting.
“Russia is trying to capture any kind of attention from the world to make war propaganda.
“Russia’s participation cannot be whitewashed with neutrality or a white flag.”
Other sports have used a neutral flag
Zelenskyy was referring to sports such as tennis, where in most tournaments Russian and Belarusian athletes have been able to compete under a neutral flag, such as Aryna Sabalenka, winner of the Australian Open.
The meeting held this Friday was led by the new British Minister for Sport and Culture of the United Kingdom, Lucy Frazer, who stressed that Russia has denied opportunities to Ukrainian athletes.
“There is a danger that the world wants to turn the page and go back to the way things were before,” Frazer said.
“However, the situation with Ukraine has not changed since the International Olympic Committee’s decision last February [when the Russian invasion began] to ban Russians and Belarusians from participating in any competitions.
“As long as Putin continues his war, Russia and Belarus should not be allowed to participate in any world championships or be represented at the Olympic Games.”
Knock-on effect into other sports
This position on the part of the United Kingdom may have important consequences for tournaments such as Wimbledon, which last year banned Russians and Belarusians from playing.
That decision cost Wimbledon in the form of financial penalties from the ATP and the WTA (over one million euros) and sporting penalties, as no points were awarded during the tournament.
IOC stand firm
As for the Olympic Games, the IOC remains firm in its decision that Russia and Belarus will not participate as nations, but is open to their athletes being able to participate under a neutral flag.
This has been criticized by delegations from different countries, such as Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland, who want the ban on Russians and Belarusians to remain in place.
The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has also called for athletes from these two countries not to participate in next year’s Olympic Games.
Canada’s sports minister, Pascale St-Onge, has spoken along the same lines.
“Canada’s position is clear: Russian and Belarusian athletes must be banned from the 2024 Games, I have reiterated this to my foreign colleagues,” St-Onge said.