“The Russian athletes certainly did not start the war. Those who have distanced themselves from the regime should be able to compete under a neutral flag.” Thomas Bach, IOC President
The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, said that Russian athletes who distanced themselves from the war in Ukraine should be able to compete under a neutral flag.
Thomas Bach: I have been discussing Russia for months with dozens of state heads and prime ministers: none of them can tell me when and how the war will end. To those who ask me how the IOC will act regarding the Russians and the next Olympics and whether it will allow them to compete or not, I answer: who am I to know and be able to tell you?.
But does the IOC policy towards Putin remain unchanged?
Thomas Bach: Of course. Four hours after the invasion we clearly condemned Russia and suspended it from the IOC asking the international federations not to accept representatives of that country and not to organize events in Russia. They all accepted our advice. It was a right choice but it does not solve our dilemma.
Thomas Bach: The Russian athletes certainly did not start the war. Those who have distanced themselves from the regime should be able to compete under a neutral flag. Our goal is to make sure that athletes with a Russian passport who do not support the war participate in competitions again. But it is not easy.
Thomas Bach: Because there is a huge difference on the political level regarding our decisions. Some governments have independently decided to refuse visas to Russian athletes on their territories, even if they are allowed to compete. Others forbade their athletes to compete with the Russians. Moreover, in some countries they do not feel comfortable, they are not guaranteed security. Our peaceful mission is faltering and Russian and Belarusian athletes are now paying the price because of it. But the problem could get worse.
Thomas Bach: Sport is becoming more and more a reason for political retaliation. The Iranians may not want the Americans to compete, the Palestinians reject the Israelis, and so on. It’s a world full of conflicts, from all points of view and also in sports. There is always someone who fights against someone else, who doesn’t want someone to participate or ask for sanctions. So sport is split and we are torn apart.
What are the meaning of the Games in this context?
Thomas Bach: The Olympic movement’s mission is to contribute to peace, while remaining politically neutral: of course, right now we need to understand how to do it. Organizing the Games serves to keep people together, especially in difficult moments.
Thomas Bach: We must show people that the Games remain unifying because here, in our world, the rules are the same for everyone: the penalty is taken from 11 meters, 100 meters are always 100 meters, prohibited substances are prohibited for everyone. The Olympic Village must be a place of peace, regardless of religion, sexual orientation, gender differences or the language spoken.
Our Games, Milan-Cortina: there are just over three years left, how is it going?
Thomas Bach: All according to plan. We can count on the excellent work of Giovanni Malagò both as president of Coni and of the organizing committee. It will be a great. We understand well how difficult the economic context is with skyrocketing inflation, we will give all our support.
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