Any prospect of Russia’s athletes returning to the international spotlight at the 2024 Summer Olympics was flatly rejected Wednesday by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.
In a phone call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach as reported by Fox News, the Ukraine leader slammed the idea even if the athletes arrived under a neutral flag.
His condemnation came just days after the IOC said it was open to exploring options that would allow athletes from Russia or its ally Belarus to join others in some international sporting events.
The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee was behind moves to allow athletes from the two countries to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics provided they do not participate under their countries’ colours or flags.
“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, according to a press release as seen by the outlet.
In a follow-up video address also released on Wednesday, Zelensky reiterated allowing Russian athletes to compete would be a mistake.
“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, via Reuters.
The IOC recommended on Feb. 28 — four days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began — that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be excluded from competition, citing concerns over safety and the integrity of competitions.
As Breitbart News reported, the IOC said it issued the recommendation to ban both countries with a “heavy heart,” arguing the attack puts Ukrainian athletes in an unfair position.
Most Olympic sports followed its lead and imposed bans as did organizers of the Wimbledon tennis championships.
Russia was previously banned from competing as a nation during the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 2020 Summer Olympics, and the 2022 Winter Olympics due to the infamous doping scandal profiled in the Oscar-winning documentary Icarus.
The IOC tripled its funds for Ukrainian sport to $7.5 million mid-year as did other sporting nations from around the world.
Ukrainian athletes benefit from fund to attend World Athletics Championships.#WorldAthleticsChamps
— World Athletics (@WorldAthletics) June 30, 2022
The IOC cash flowed after Zelensky claimed a rising toll of athletes and coaches have died “as a result of hostilities,” some 13 have been captured by the Russians, and “more than a hundred thousand Ukrainian athletes do not have the opportunity of training.”
The IOC has also been coordinating the direct financial support for more than 3,000 individual Ukrainian athletes both at home and abroad through the establishment of a solidarity fund and a task force led by Olympic champion Sergii Bubka.
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