The IOC has made it clear that it wants Russians to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics, albeit as neutral athletes. That does not sit well with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as his country repels Russian armed forces in their ongoing war against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive campaign.
On Wednesday, the IOC released a statement saying that because of their “unifying mission” during a time of war, they do not believe any athlete should face discrimination based on their passport and country designation.
“A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored,” the IOC said in a statement following an executive board meeting, though IOC president Thomas Bach did not speak to the press.
“We know how often tyrannies try to use sports for their ideological interests,” said Zelenskyy in a video message of Friday. “It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood. I invite Mr. Bach to Bakhmut. So that he could see with his own eyes that neutrality does not exist.”
We know how often tyrannies try to use sports for their ideological interests. It is obvious that any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood. I invite Mr. Bach to Bakhmut. So that he could see with his own eyes that neutrality does not exist. pic.twitter.com/icSdvgpD87
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 27, 2023
Bakhmut is a city in eastern Ukraine that has been ravaged by Russian forces.
It wasn’t that long ago that the IOC had a different take on Russian athletes competing during the war. Last February, the IOC recommended “with a heavy heart” sports bodies exclude Russia and Belarus from hosting and competing “in order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.”
If Russian athletes are able to compete in Paris, the AP notes that they will likely have to travel through Asia to get there due to Russia’s fraught relationship with European countries at the moment.