Return of Russian athletes: IOC raked over the coals

The recommendation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to readmit Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions has sparked fierce criticism. Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk spoke of "a day of shame for the IOC" and Ukrainian athletes are pondering boycotts. Commentators examine motives and repercussions.

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De Morgen (BE) /

Sport is not a dove of peace

The IOC president is being a bit naive, according to De Morgen:

“Bach apparently believes in the idea of deep Olympic values that transcend normal sports which the IOC has cultivated. The idea that the sports organisation is a kind of dove of peace in a cruel world, with the 'Olympic truce', a global ceasefire during the Games, as its highpoint. But in fact sport rarely brings nations together, and there can be no question of separating sports from politics either. Russia in particular has a dubious past in this regard.”

Eesti Päevaleht (EE) /

Dependent on Russian money

For commentator Viljar Voog it's clear what is really behind the decisions. He explains in Eesti Päevaleht:

“A certain blindness has led to the true background of these decisions not being perceived. For example, the International Fencing Federation (FIE) has just readmitted the Russians to its family with an almost two-thirds majority. Has democracy triumphed? I would guess that the vote was not based on sporting considerations but on the fact that the financing of the FIE is dependent to a large extent on the mammon of Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov [FIE president for many years until the outbreak of the war].” (UA) /

Ukraine boycotting the Olympics? No thanks looks at the potential consequences for Ukrainian athletes:

“Ukrainian track and field athlete Yaroslava Mahukhich [bronze medallist in the high jump at the Tokyo Games] has commented on a the possibility of boycotting the 2024 Olympic Games if Russians and Belarusians are allowed to take part in international competitions: 'I think it is a very weak position to boycott the Olympic Games. We must do everything to prevent this from happening. ... This is the biggest of all competitions, everyone watches it. If there are no Ukrainian athletes competing there, it will be a failure, quite honestly'.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

All conflicts should count equally

Lidové noviny says the debate should not focus solely on Russia's war against Ukraine:

“There are currently 36 military conflicts taking place around the world, most of them civil wars. For example, according to official figures 100,000 people died in the fighting in Ethiopia last year, 130,000 people have been killed in Afghanistan in the last five years, and almost 50,000 inSyria. Yes, over 240,000 people lost their lives in Ukraine last year alone. However, what matters is not the number of people who have died but the fact that they should all count equally if we want justice to be done. There is more at stake than just how threatened we feel.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

Exclusion is the only solution

Rzeczpospolita criticises the stance of the IOC President:

“Bach believes that it is sufficient punishment for Russia and Belarus if the IOC refuses to allow them to host international events and excludes their official delegations, flags and anthems. With regard to next year's Games, the IOC has not taken a binding position, but nor is it closing the door on the aggressors. This puts the democratic West - including Poland - in a very difficult position. What if a humiliated Ukraine boycotts the Games? ... Games without Russia and Belarus are the only solution that can save them from losing face and credibility.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

A moral no go

Human rights issues are no longer a concern for the IOC, the Tages-Anzeiger laments:

“Who's talking about morals? To be re-elected, all [IOC President Bach] has to do is dole out the money as generously as possible. Like at Fifa. On important issues such as human rights, the major federations have moved backwards rather than forwards. Because of apartheid, South Africa was excluded from the Olympic Games for almost three decades, until 1991. But now a full-scale war is not enough reason to exclude Russia as the aggressor and Belarus as its main helper?”

Kirill Shulika (RU) /

Bach managing to sit on two chairs

Blogger Kirill Schulika explains on Facebook that nothing has really been decided yet:

“There have been no discussions about the [2024] Olympic Games in Paris yet. A scheme for how the sports federations should admit Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions has been proposed. But this too is still largely in draft form. ... There are still a few months left to test it and get it into a working format for regular competitions. Only then will decisions be made on the Olympics. This compromise cannot be a good one, but it could also have turned out worse. Bach has once again managed to sit on two chairs.”

Sme (SK) /

There is another way

Several national ice hockey federations have announced their intention of not nominating players who earn their money in the Russian league KHL for the upcoming IIHF World Championship. Sme is delighted that the Slovakian federation is now following suit:

“Ice hockey players from the KHL are anything but role models, because they knowingly support Putin's regime. ... If the Slovakian ice hockey team doesn't succeed at the World Championship, it may be a small sporting tragedy. But the really big tragedies are taking place under the rubble of bombed-out houses, in cellars full of frightened children and in the hearts of those who have lost their loved ones in the war in Ukraine - no matter which side. There are more important things in the world than ice hockey.”