President critical about IOC's decision says aide

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, has expressed deep regret over the International Olympic Committee's recommendation that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to take part in international competitions under a neutral flag.

"President Andrzej Duda is highly critical about any attempt to politicise sport and sportspersons," Marcin Przydacz, the head of the Presidential International Politics Bureau, told a Polish public radio programme on Thursday.

The IOC on Tuesday issued a recommendation for the gradual return to international competitions of Russian and Belarusian athletes under a neutral flag, provided that they did not actively support the war in Ukraine and were not military sports club members.

The IOC Executive Board's decision relates only to the return of those athletes to international competitions but not the 2024 Olympics where a separate decision will be taken at a later date, President Thomas Bach said.

"This change of politics by the IOC will surely be taken advantage of by Vladimir Putin," Przydacz said, adding that sport had always played a very important role in Russia, "just as it used to in the Soviet Union."

Przydacz added that Poland would use its foreign policy as well as its diplomatic influence in the IOC to change its stance.

"We will be building a broad coalition to exert pressure on the IOC as this is simply a bad decision," Przydacz concluded.

The IOC had sanctioned Russia and Belarus after the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine but last month issued a statement saying that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport."

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."