Up to 40 nations could boycott the Olympics if Russian athletes are allowed to compete in 2024, said Poland’s sport and tourism minister Kamil Bortniczuk.
Bottniczuk’s comments came after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced last week that they would “explore a pathway” to allow Russian athletes to compete as independents in the Paris Olympics next year.
Poland is not alone in condemning the IOC’s decision. All three Baltics – Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia – have condemned the move. Ukraine has also said it would consider boycotting the Olympics if Russian athletes were allowed to compete. Bortniczuk claimed that it would be possible to build a coalition to oppose Russian participation if the IOC did not change is mind.
Will Russian athletes compete in the 2024 Olympics?
The IOC has called on sports federations to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in the 2024 games, due to President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which commenced in February last year.
However, the IOC issued a statement on Wednesday saying that Russian and Belarusian competitors could be allowed to participate in the games under certain circumstances. According to the IOC, “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”.
Russian and Belarusian athletes could be allowed to participate if they entered competitions as “independents”, rather than as representatives of their respective countries.
The decision to potentially permit Russian and Belarusian competitors to attend the Paris Olympics has been criticized strongly by Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltics.
Kamil Bortniczuk, Poland’s sport and tourism minister, claimed it would be possible to build a coalition of at least 40 countries to oppose the move by the IOC. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, also all former Soviet states, have also opposed the move.
On Thursday, ministers from the three Baltic states issued a statement saying “any effort by the International Olympic Committee to bring back Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, should be rejected”.
“Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimize political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries,” they added.
Ukrainian officials also said they would boycott the Paris’ Olympics if athletes representing Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete. Ukrainian sports minister Vadym Guttsait has urged the IOC to keep a strict ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The US has also weighed in on the issue. Washington has said that Russian and Belarusian sports bodies should be suspended from international sports organizations. Also that sporting agencies should stop broadcasting events into both countries.
However, the US has been more lenient on the issue than some Eastern European and Baltic countries. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that if athletes from either county were allowed to participate as neutrals “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states”.
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