Athletes shouldn’t suffer amid escalating row over allowing Russians, Belarusians to compete

MOSCOW: The president of the 2024 Paris Olympics organising committee stated that athletes should not “suffer” from decisions they do not control amid an escalating row over allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete. The issue has divided opinion since Russia invaded Ukraine last February and used Belarusian territory to launch its offensive. That led to bans from several major sporting events.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) last week said it was examining a “pathway” to allow Russians to participate in Paris, probably as neutral athletes rather than under their national flag, a position backed by the United States.

But Kyiv has called for a complete ban on Russian participation, with a Ukrainian presidential aide accusing the IOC of being a “promoter of war”.

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee has demanded his athletes be able to compete without restrictions, but the IOC said some sanctions against the country’s athletes would continue.

Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris Olympics organising committee, on Friday said many athletes were “not involved at all in these decisions right now and, personally, I think they shouldn’t suffer the consequences of decisions that don’t concern them”.

“We’re hoping a maximum number of delegations and athletes can live their dream of taking part in the Games,” he told AFP in the southern French city of Marseille, where the torch relay will begin in April 2024. Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoe champion, said it was up to the IOC, the International Paralympic Committee and individual federations to decide on delegations’ eligibility for the Games.

“My role as an organiser is to offer athletes from across the world the best organisation and security conditions,” he added. Poland’s sports minister on Thursday said he expected up to 40 countries including Britain and European Union member states to come out against allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris next year.




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