President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach visiting the World Cup in downhill skiing in Courchevel, France, on February 12, 2023.
Courchevel (France) – President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, during a visit to the World Downhill Skiing Championships, defended the plan to get athletes from Russia and Belarus to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, against which a great wave of resentment arose in Europe and other countries. In an interview with international media, Bach argued that sport must respect the human rights of all athletes. He denied that the IOC was on the “wrong side of history” because of its approach.
Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began almost a year ago, the vast majority of international sports organizations excluded athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus from their competitions. At that time, the IOC also recommended it, and the sanctions are still in effect. However, the leadership of the world Olympic Games recently stated that it is considering allowing neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus who oppose the war in Ukraine to compete in the Olympics. in the sporting environment as well as on the political scene. A negative attitude was also heard from the Czech Republic. The Czech Olympic Committee, the National Sports Agency and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed that they do not agree with the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in Paris. But they reject the boycott.
IOC President Bach has previously called on Ukraine to drop calls for a boycott. So far, he has not indicated that he would change his position under pressure. And he doesn't think there's anything wrong with the IOC's plans. “History will show who does more for peace. If those who try to keep the roads open, to communicate, or those who want to isolate and divide,” he said. and South Korea, Israel and Palestine or in Kosovo. “Our role is to bring people together,” he declared.
In the finish area of today's downhill, he could also watch the Ukrainian skier Ivan Kovbasnjuk, who took 40th place. Earlier at the championship, this competitor spoke out against Russian participation in the 2024 Olympic Games. “Russia is killing my people. It's not a good situation for the Olympic Committee,” he said. A similar attitude was expressed by other Ukrainian athletes such as the high-flyer Jaroslava Mahučichová or the tennis player Elina Svitolinová.
Bach claims that the IOC sympathizes with Ukraine. “From a human point of view, we can understand their reactions, we share their suffering. We can assure all Ukrainian athletes that we stand in solidarity with them and that we take their comments very, very seriously,” he said.
MOV responded by changing its position on the recommendation of UN human rights experts who claim that excluding athletes based on their passport alone is discriminatory. The approach of the federations in individual Olympic sports will now be crucial, as they must decide if and how athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to participate in the Olympic qualification. The IOC considered that they could qualify through competitions in Asia.