IOC wants Russians as "neutral" athletes at Olympics

Currently unable to compete in most sports due to the war on Ukraine, Russian and Belarusian athletes can now hope to take part in the 2024 Summer Olympics under a neutral flag. IOC chief Thomas Bach has declared that it is contrary to the Olympic Charter to exclude athletes because of their nationality. Europe's press takes up the debate.

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Badische Zeitung (DE) /

Putin can count on Bach

For the Badische Zeitung, the announcement comes as no surprise:

“Good friends help each other. ...The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would never have become so powerful if Russia's president hadn't supported him so consistently. Bach's rise to the pinnacle of the Olympics went hand in hand with Putin's strategy of exerting growing influence on the world of sport. Russian officials are on the boards of numerous federations, and Russian money has flowed and continues to flow into many sports. ... When Russia's president tramples on human rights, he also destroys the values of sport. That should lead to the break-up of any friendship. But Vladimir Putin has been able to rely on Thomas Bach through thick and thin.”

Aftonbladet (SE) /

Let's not be useful idiots

Dictatorships are always eager to use sporting events for self-promotion, Aftonbladet comments:

“Russia and Putin use sportswashing because it works. Sport is something that brings the world together. It's a language that everyone speaks, regardless of where you were born. ... Dictatorships wouldn't spend vast sums organising sports championships, buying football clubs or sponsoring athletes if it didn't work. It doesn't help anyone if we act like useful idiots.”

Echo (RU) /

Only war critics should be allowed to compete

Ukrainian producer and director Alexander Rodnyansky, who worked in Russia until the war began, finds the proposal acceptable, but only on one condition. He writes in a Telegram post reprinted by Echo:

“If Russian athletes have spoken out loudly and unequivocally against the war and named the guilty parties and victims, they should be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. If they remain silent, or worse, support the killing of civilians, absolutely not. ... The next Olympic Games are scheduled to begin in Paris on 24 July 2024. I very much hope that the war will be over by then - with a victory for Ukraine. And that the Ukrainian team can compete at full strength. With all those who survived.”

Pravda (SK) /

Don't punish athletes for their governments

Pravda argues:

“We cannot vilify Russian athletes or artists for not publicly protesting against the Putin regime or condemning the military atrocities in Ukraine. Russia is not a democracy but a dictatorship. No matter how famous athletes or artists are there, they have zero influence on politicians' decisions. If they oppose the regime, the regime harms their family. The anger of Ukrainian President Zelensky, who wants to deny Russian athletes participation in the Olympics, is justified and understandable. ... So this is not an easy situation for the IOC. The proposed compromise with 'neutral' athletes seems to be a reasonable starting point.”

Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Large-scale boycott unlikely

Neatkarīgā doesn't believe many states will cancel their participation in Paris:

“Ukraine will boycott the Games. What about the other countries, including Latvia? Even if the 50-nation coalition of the Ramstein Friends of Ukraine - or even the EU member states - were to take a united stand and clearly say no, the IOC would come up with something. Unfortunately, such a consensus will be difficult to achieve, if only because the 2024 Olympic Games are taking place in Paris. It would be absurd for France to boycott its home Games. So there is little hope of the West adopting a united stance.”