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Baltics call on Olympics to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, not only teams

Demanding a total exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics, the foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania accused the IOC of unjustifiably easing measures against Russia and Belarus.
The image shows the Olympic Games symbol on Trocadero place in front of the Eiffel Tower celebrating the upcoming Paris 2024 summer Olympics. Credit: depositphotos.com
Baltics call on Olympics to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes, not only teams

The foreign ministers of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania released a joint statement on 26 July expressing “deep concern” over the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recommendation to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a “neutral” flag at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

On 26 July, the International Olympic Committee sent invitations to 203 countries to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games. Three countries did not receive invitations: Russia, Belarus, and Guatemala. The latter has been suspended from the Olympic movement since September 2022 due to government interference in the independence of the country’s National Olympic Committee. 

However, “neutral” athletes from Belarus and Russia will be allowed, according to a previous decision of the committee.

The Baltic foreign ministers said this approach is “unjustifiable” given that Russia and Belarus continue to wage war in Ukraine against “a sovereign, Olympic-participating nation.” They argued that “it is unwarranted to ease any measures against Russia and Belarus” while their aggression persists.

The statement emphasized that Russian and Belarusian athletes are supported by their governments and should not be considered politically “neutral.” It noted that “over recent years…Russia has been exploiting the presence of ‘neutral’ athletes at international competitions in its state propaganda.”

The ministers said banning only athletes currently serving in the military is insufficient, stating, “we cannot ignore the growing concerns from athletes and sporting organizations all over the world” about letting Russians and Belarusians compete alongside Ukrainians defending their country.

The Baltics “commend the IOC’s attempts to clarify a status of neutrality” but say their remaining concerns about state funding and military connections have not been addressed. They expressed disappointment with the IOC’s “remarks that undermine our nations’ concerns,” rejecting accusations of double standards. The ministers affirmed they are “actively working to promote peace and stability” while their “current focus is on supporting Ukraine.”

In conclusion, the joint statement calls on the IOC “to uphold its own restrictive measures as long as Russia continues its unprovoked, unjustified and illegal war of aggression.” It urges reconsidering participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes to “protect the principles of the Olympic Charter and the integrity of the competition.”

The Olympic Committee has a genocidal dictator problem – opinion

In February, about 30 countries, including the host of the 2024 Olympics, France, called on the IOC to exclude Russians and Belarusians from participating in the games in Paris because of problems with the clarity of the athletes’ “neutrality.” This call was supported by the leadership of the Council of Europe.

On 25 January 2023, the International Olympic Committee published a statement that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to participate under “neutral flags” in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris after Asian qualification.

On 6 February 2023, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine appealed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), national Olympic committees, international sports federations, and parliaments of the world with a demand to ban the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports competitions, including the 2024 Olympic Games, until the end of the military aggression of Russia against Ukraine.

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