Russian athletes have been offered a path to compete at the Paris 2024 Games even if the war in Ukraine continues to rage for another 18 months. It comes after a proposal was made by the Olympic Council of Asia to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to take part in its qualifying competitions for 2024 – even though they are still banned by most sports.
The International Olympic Committee will now explore the OCA’s plan in the coming weeks, although it is widely expected to be approved. The decision is likely to be controversial, however the IOC has also made it clear that the sporting sanctions against Russia and Belarus as countries will remain in place.
It means neither is able to host international events – while Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from wearing the colours of their country, or having their anthems played, when they compete in international competitions. Russian athletes who show overt support for the war in Ukraine will also be denied a chance to compete.
In a statement the IOC accepted there had been an “intense debate” at its 11th Olympic summit in Lausanne about the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus in international competitions. However it stressed that it wanted sport to continue to be a place where athletes from many different countries and political systems could come together.
That view was reflected by France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, who said: “Sport should not be politicised. These major events are meant to allow athletes from all countries, sometimes including countries at war, to bring sport to life. Also, to find, through sport, ways of discussing where people can no longer talk to each other – I think that should be preserved.”
The move was praised by the IOC Athletes’ Commission. It said it welcomed “the exploration of the initiative as a way to live up to the Olympic mission to unite athletes from all around the world in peaceful competition, while noting that there are different views among the athlete community”.