Olympic Games Ukraine condemns the IOC's decision to admit Russians to Paris 2024: "More than 400 athletes have died in the war"

The Ukrainian sports world has harshly condemned the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Russians and Belarusians to participate in the Paris Olympic Games under a neutral flag as long as they do not "actively" support the invasion

Olympic Games Ukraine condemns the IOC's decision to admit Russians to Paris 2024: "More than 400 athletes have died in the war"

The Ukrainian sports world has harshly condemned the decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow Russians and Belarusians to participate in the Paris Olympic Games under a neutral flag as long as they do not "actively" support the invasion.

"We are disappointed with the decision," Serguí Stajovsky, former professional tennis player and participant in the 2012 Olympic Games, told EFE. Admitting competitors under a "neutral" flag is unfair while Ukraine is being attacked, said Stajovsky, who stressed that it is assumed that the Olympic Games are about fair play.

"And what kind of fair play can we talk about if our athletes haven't been able to return home for two years and have to worry about their families, who they could kill or have already killed?" he asks rhetorically.

Like many other Ukrainian athletes, Stakhovsky has been fighting in the ranks of his country's defense forces since the start of the invasion. While he witnessed the destruction it brought to Ukraine, he did not receive a single word of support from Russian or Belarusian tennis players, he told EFE.

According to the Ukrainian Sports Ministry, 397 athletes and coaches have died since the start of the invasion and more than 500 stadiums or training centers have been damaged. "It's not just about these Olympic Games. It is possible that the next generation of athletes will not be able to appear in Ukraine," lamented Stakhovsky.

The IOC's decision is a "great, great shame for the world of sport," Ukrainian swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk, currently in Romania during the European Short Course Championships, also declared today, Saturday.

"The Russians attacked Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian civilians, Ukrainian athletes, Ukrainian sports facilities, and now they are allowed to participate. It is not normal," he said. "More than 400 athletes have died during this war. And now we are taking them to the Olympic Games?"

"If they don't respect the rules, if they don't respect peace in the world, why are they allowed to participate? That's why it's a great, great shame for the world of sport," continued Romanchuk, a double Olympic medalist at the Tokyo Olympics. in 2021 (silver in the 1500 m, bronze in 800 m).

The International Swimming Federation announced in September the reintegration of the Russians starting in 2024, unlike the athletics federation, which still maintains their exclusion. "Sebastian Coe (president of World Athletics) said that as long as the war is not over, there would be no Russians. I like that decision, and in my opinion, everyone should do the same," said Romanchuk, whose wife Maryna Bekh-Romanchuk She is European champion in triple jump.

The decision of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is "wrong" and "encourages" Russia and Belarus to continue their attack against Ukraine, kyiv denounced on Saturday.

"The members of the IOC Executive Council who made this decision assume responsibility for having encouraged Russia and Belarus to continue their armed aggression against Ukraine," the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry said.

"There is no doubt that the Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda war," he added in a statement.

"Moscow will not fly white and neutral flags during the competitions, as the IOC suggests, but will demonstrate the triumph of its ability to free itself from responsibility for the largest armed conflict in Europe since the Second World War," he continues.

For the Ukrainian Ministry, the athletes, "in particular Russians", "often represent organizations associated with the Russian armed forces" and "some are on active service in the Russian army."

"The IOC plans to authorize participation in international sports arenas to athletes who not only support the murder of Ukrainian women and children, but are also probably directly involved in these crimes," accuses Ukrainian diplomacy.

Ukrainian representatives have so far not revealed whether their country will participate in the Olympics, after calls for a boycott.

"We will make the decision later, after having consulted with the Ukrainian sports community and the country's senior political officials," says Bidnyi, acting Minister of Sports.

The rules for establishing whether a "neutral" athlete is involved in Russian aggression against Ukraine should be very clear, according to Olga Saladuja, acting president of the Ukrainian athletics federation. "Ukrainians have to participate in this procedure," she stressed.

"Our athletes should participate in the Olympic Games," says Stajovsky, who warns against ceding the international stage to Russian and Belarusian representatives. Ukrainian athletes should be prepared to know what to do in case they have to face "neutral" Russians and Belarusians, he said.

Stajovsky alluded to the case of Olga Jarlan, an Olympic fencing gold medalist, who was disqualified from this year's World Championships for refusing to shake the hand of a Russian opponent.

Ukrainian swimmer Mykhailo Romanchuk, however, rejected the idea of ​​a boycott of competitions in which Russians participate. "I have to do my job. My best job is swimming, representing Ukraine and talking to you (the press), doing a lot of interviews, it's my job."

"I thank the men who defend our country. They not only defend Ukraine, they defend all of Europe. I have to swim. There is nothing else to do. The best thing I can do is swim to represent my country and that is what I do," said the 27-year-old athlete.

The IOC establishes that only "neutral individual" athletes who pass the classification processes, who do not actively support the war in Ukraine and who are not contracted by the army or national security agencies may participate.

According to the IOC, eleven athletes (eight Russians and three Belarusians) are currently classified as meeting those neutrality criteria, which Moscow called "discriminatory."

For her part, German Sports Minister Nancy Faeser today called on the IOC to "examine very precisely" the background of Russian athletes, and to exclude from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris those who have supported the war against Ukraine.

"The warmonger (Vladimir) Putin cannot under any circumstances use the Paris Games for his propaganda. That Russian teams remain excluded and that flags and symbols are prohibited is the least we can expect from the IOC," said Nancy Faeser, cited in a statement.