Zelensky opposes push for Russian athletes to join Olympics

(Genya Savilov, Pool Photo via AP)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meets with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2022. (Genya Savilov, Pool Photo via AP)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he is opposed to the International Olympic Committee president’s goal to include Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Olympics as independent competitors.

During a call on Wednesday with the group’s president, Thomas Bach, Zelensky called for “complete isolation” of Russia on the international stage, including international sports events.

“Since February, 184 Ukrainian athletes have died as a result of Russia’s actions. One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being ignored,” Zelensky said.

Bach last week indicated support for athletes from the two countries being able to compete as long as they do not do so under their country’s flag, a shift from when the International Olympic Committee’s executive board in February recommended international sporting event organizers not allow their participation following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Athletes cannot be punished for acts of their government as long as they do not contribute or support it,” Bach said last week at a press conference.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s board chair told The Wall Street Journal that the group supports such a move.

“What we never did and we never want to do is prohibiting athletes from participating in sports only because of their passport,” Bach said.

The 2024 Summer Olympics will be held in Paris.

Bach noted that some governments had taken to refusing to issue visas for athletes from Russia.

The 2022 Winter Olympics ended four days before Moscow’s invasion, and Russian President Vladimir Putin traveled to Beijing during the games before the country was sanctioned days later.

Russian athletes competed in those Olympics under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee due to sanctions on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Tags Olympics russia Russia-Ukraine war Thomas Bach ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky

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