Ukraine's Zelensky opposes idea of Russian athletes at Olympics under neutral banner

If they were allowed to compete, it would be a mistake, he says, since it would be interpreted as a sign that 'the world supposedly condones their terror'

By Reuters

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Photos: Reuters
Photos: Reuters

Published: Thu 15 Dec 2022, 12:32 PM

On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky opposed the idea of Russian athletes taking part under any kind of neutral banner at the 2024 Summer Olympics, saying that "all their flags are stained in blood".

His remarks came after talking to the International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who last week said that the participation of Russian and Belarusian sportsmen and women at the 2024 Paris games was still unclear.


In a statement, Zelensky said Ukraine was disappointed by what he called the IOC's intention to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete under a neutral flag.

"We can only say one thing: a white or any neutral flag is impossible for Russian athletes, as all their flags are stained in blood," he said in a video address released later in the day.


Zelensky, calling for the "complete isolation" of Russians from sporting events, said that 184 Ukrainian athletes had died in the conflict with Russia, but did not give details.

The Russian and Belarusian sports ministries did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Monday, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee endorsed exploring the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes featuring in the Games, but said that they were to do so strictly as neutral competitors.

Bach said last week that while IOC sanctions against Russia and Belarus remain in place, the "protective measures" of not letting their athletes compete in international competitions to protect the events' integrity were another matter.

In his video address, Zelensky said the IOC's principles "definitely do not envisage indulging terrorist states". If Russian athletes were allowed to compete, it would be a mistake, he said, since it would be interpreted as a sign that "the world supposedly condones their terror".

The IOC has not suspended or sanctioned the national Olympic committees of Russia and Belarus.

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