Poland wants no Russian, Belarusian athletes at Olympics
Russian and Belarusian athletes should be excluded from the 2024 Summer Olympics, the Polish foreign ministry has argued.
Last month, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued a statement saying that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport," suggesting the body was considering scrapping a ban placed on athletes from the two countries owing to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The suggestion followed the intervention of two UN experts who urged the IOC to ensure "the non-discrimination of any athlete on the basis of their nationality."
But this prospect has met Polish opposition.
"There exists not a single reason to move away from the exclusion regime for Russian and Belarusian athletes set by the IOC more than a year ago, immediately after the start of Russia's full-scale invasion into Ukraine," Lukasz Jasina, the foreign ministry spokesman, wrote in a news release on Monday.
Jasina added that Poland regrets "that the IOC used these concerns as a pretext to reverse radically its previous well-argued stance on the recommendation not to invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.
"We wish to stress that it is not athletes’ nationality that determines their role, but the fact that they are sponsored/supported by their governments or businesses backing the Kremlin regime, which continues its war of aggression against Ukraine, or even they are affiliated with the Russian military directly," Jasina added.
"We reiterate that Russia and Belarus have at their disposal a way forward for their athletes to return to the international sports community, namely ending the war of aggression launched by Russia, with the complicity of Belarus, and restoring respect for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders," Jasina concluded.
Later on Monday, the foreign ministers of Poland, Great Britain, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia issued a joint statement regarding the prevention of Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in international sports competitions.
"As we are approaching the next meeting of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee on March 28-30, 2023, we wish to reiterate Ukraine's position on the IOC recent calls to explore the pathways for participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in competitions as 'neutral athletes,'" it read.
The foreign ministers wrote that they "deem it necessary to remind that, day by day, the Russian military keeps attacking Ukraine's civilian infrastructure including sports facilities and killing Ukrainians including Ukrainian athletes... Many athletes from Ukraine are still prevented from participating in sport events because of Russia’s attack on their country."
They added that "now is not the time to consider the opening up of a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the Olympic Games in any status."
"While the IOC has made no final decisions yet, we strongly urge it to reconsider its plans and return to the original well-proven stance supported by the international community," the statement said.