Russian President Vladimir Putin accuses IOC of ethnic discrimination

The debate over the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Olympics has been stirring up the sports world for several months. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been relatively quiet on this issue until now, strongly criticized the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday, October 19th, accusing it of “ethnic discrimination” during a speech on sports in Perm, in the Urals.

Currently based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the IOC has not yet decided on the presence of Russian athletes at the summer games. However, it has already conditioned this possibility to a series of criteria: individual participation, with teams being excluded; competing under a neutral banner, without anthem or flag; ensuring that the individuals involved did not “actively support the war in Ukraine” and that they are not under contract with the military or security services.

Their participation would therefore be necessarily limited, much to the disappointment of the President of the Russian Federation. “Thanks to certain leaders of the current International Olympic Committee, we have learned that (…) the Games themselves can be used as a tool of political pressure against individuals who have nothing to do with politics and, de facto, as a crude instrument of racial and ethnic discrimination,” said Vladimir Putin.

For the IOC, “an invitation to the Games is not an unconditional right for the best athletes, but rather a kind of privilege,” rebuked the strongman of the Kremlin.

Russian National Olympic Committee’s suspension

Russian athletes, along with their Belarusian counterparts, have been banned from all international competitions since the start of the offensive in Ukraine on February 24th, 2022. However, in March 2023, the IOC recommended their reintegration into international competitions outside of the Olympics, on the condition, once again, that they adhere to the neutrality model established by the organization.

The IOC has postponed its final decision on the Olympic event “for the appropriate moment”. Kiev, on the other hand, has threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if the Russians and Belarusians are allowed to participate. Several European countries have already expressed their support for Ukraine.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has already voted in favor of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes under a neutral banner and under strict neutrality conditions at the Paris Paralympic Games.

Another point of tension between the Russian authorities and the IOC is the suspension, on October 12th, of the Russian National Olympic Committee for having placed several sports organizations in the Ukrainian regions occupied by the Kremlin’s army under its authority.

[Source: Le Monde with AFP]

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