Poland expects stronger push against Russian, Belarusian athletes

Warsaw and the Baltic nations, which strongly support Ukraine, are calling for an Olympic ban, but the IOC has suggested Russians and Belarusians could compete as neutrals.

Poland believes it could be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries to support a call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics.

The Baltic nations and Poland, which are strong supporters of Ukraine, have already urged international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Olympics and other events while the war continues.

Poland’s sport and tourism minister Kamil Bortniczuk told the Reuters news agency that he is “convinced” that 30 to 40 sports ministers, including those from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan, will “decisively reject the idea to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in the games” by February 10.

For its part, Ukraine has threatened to boycott the games if athletes from the two countries participate.

Poland’s Minister of Sports and Tourism, Kamil Bortniczuk, in Warsaw, Poland [Kuba Stezycki/Reuters]

Last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Russians and Belarusians could participate in the Paris Olympics by qualifying for the Asian Games in September.

Should they qualify, the athletes would compete in Paris as neutrals, with no flags or anthems, as part of IOC sanctions against the two nations.

Nenad Lalovic, a member of the IOC board and the United World Wrestling president, said on Friday that decisions are yet to be finalised.

Lalovic said all options were being considered to see if and how competitors from the two outcast nations could participate in the Paris event.

“From a position as international federation president I can say all [international sports federations] agreed to follow the recommendations of the IOC and that the IOC should be the leader going towards the games,” Lalovic told Reuters.

Olympic rings to celebrate the IOC official announcement that Paris won the 2024 Olympic bid are seen in front of the Eiffel Tower
Olympic rings to celebrate the official IOC announcement that Paris won the 2024 Olympic bid, in Paris, France, on September 14, 2017 [File: Christian Hartmann/Reuters]

“At this moment we are exploring all the options … We should think about the human rights of those who are not involved in the war, especially the athletes.”

Lalovic said the IOC’s decision for their inclusion was based on a United Nations resolution against discrimination within the Olympics.

In December, two UN special rapporteurs raised concerns over excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions.

“We cannot ban athletes just because of their passports,” Lalovic said.

Qualification is already under way for most of the 32 sports.

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