In solidarity with Ukraine, close to 40 countries could boycott Paris Olympics, says Polish sports minister
Taking on the IOC, the Polish minister said he believed it would be possible to build a coalition of 40 countries, including Great Britain, the United States and Canada, to support a block on the IOC’s plans before a meeting on 10 February
New Delhi: Nearly 40 countries are likely to boycott the next Olympic Games to be held in Paris next year, making the whole event pointless, Poland’s sport and tourism minister Kamil Bortniczuk said on Thursday.
The Polish minister’s comments came after Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia jointly rejected an International Olympic Committee (IOC) plan to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete in 2024, despite other nations objecting to it.
In January, war-hit Ukraine had already threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if Russian athletes are allowed to compete for the prestigious games.
The IOC, however, led by Thomas Bach made it clear on Thursday that any such boycott of the Olympics would only “punish athletes” of those countries.
Taking on the IOC, the Polish minister said he believed it would be possible to build a coalition of 40 countries, including Great Britain, the United States and Canada, to name a few to support a block on the IOC’s plans before a meeting on 10 February.
“Considering this I don’t think we will face tough decisions before the Olympics and, if we were to boycott the Games, the coalition we will be a part of will be broad enough to make holding the Games pointless,” he said.
Putting their weight behind the Polish minister’s comments, sports ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland on Thursday, said, “any effort by the International Olympic Committee to bring back Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, should be rejected”.
They also urged “all international sports organisations and federations” to remove Russian and Belarusians athletes from international competitions until the war ends.
Amid massive criticism, the IOC last week announced that it would “explore a pathway” that would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris under a neutral flag. In a statement the IOC said, “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hit back at the IOC saying that in a war, there was no such thing as “neutrality”. He pointed out that the Russian and Belarusian athletes could not participate under a “neutral flag” while Ukraine’s sportspersons were dying on the battlefield. Zelenskyy, also drew a comparison with the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin when the Nazis were in power.
Any effort by the IOC “to bring Russian athletes back into the Olympic Games are attempts to tell the whole world that terror is somehow acceptable,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.
The IOC’s bid to find a way out and permit the Russians to compete in the Games attracted widespread condemnation, with the British government alleging that the plan was a “world away from the reality of war”.
Ukraine sports minister Vadym Guttsait said the country’s sporting bodies needed to “strengthen communication” with global federations to keep a ban in place on Russian and Belarusian athletes, which was imposed by the IOC’s executive committee immediately after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
Bach, the IOC chief, has since said that the ban last year was only intended as a “protective” measure towards those athletes, and now insists they should not be discriminated against due to the war in Ukraine.
The IOC has reiterated that no discussions on the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to competition had yet taken place and warned Ukraine and other nations about the implications of threatening a boycott.
“Threatening a boycott of the Olympic Games, which the NOC of Ukraine is currently considering, goes against the fundamentals of the Olympic movement and the principles it stands for,” the IOC wrote in a question-and-answer document published on Thursday.
“A boycott is a violation of the Olympic charter, which obliges all NOCs to ‘participate in the Games of the Olympiad by sending athletes’. As history has shown, previous boycotts did not achieve their political ends and served only to punish the athletes of the boycotting NOCs,” the IOC wrote in a scathing comeback.
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