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State of the Olympic Movement discussed on final day of IOC Executive Board meeting


07 Dec 2022 – The IOC Executive Board (EB) today discussed at length the state of the Olympic Movement in connection with the consequences of the war in Ukraine following the Russian invasion. These discussions, and those at the upcoming Olympic Summit on Friday 9 December, are in preparation for extensive stakeholder consultations, which are planned for in early 2023.

In the concluding press conference, IOC President Thomas Bach firstly laid out the conclusions of the EB discussions in terms of sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments:

“It may not come as a surprise to you that the sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian State and Government were in no way put into question during this very deep debate today. As I have stated many times: The sanctions must remain firmly in place. These sanctions were imposed because of the breach of the Olympic Truce, which is a breach of the Olympic Charter.”

President Bach then recalled what these sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian states and governments include:

  • The very strong condemnation of the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government.
  • No international sports events being organised or supported by an International Federation (IF) or National Olympic Committee (NOC) in Russia or Belarus.
  • No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting.
  • The unprecedented decision to withdraw the Olympic Orders from the President of the Russian Federation and the Deputy Prime Minister.

He explained that the EB members today unanimously reaffirmed the clear position of the IOC that these sanctions must remain firmly in place, and also unanimously reaffirmed the continuation of the IOC’s solidarity efforts for the Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community. This is in order to have a strong NOC of Ukraine team at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026.

Secondly, he spoke of the debate by the IOC EB that lasted for several hours, which was about the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in international sports competitions.

He stated:

“Let me be very clear again in this respect: The question of the participation of athletes is very different from the question of sanctions for their government. The question of athletes’ participation was never part, and could not be part of the sanctions. The question of athletes’ participation was a protective measure to safeguard the integrity of international sports competitions and to ensure the safety of athletes from these two countries.

“Because following the outbreak of this war, some governments started to decide which athletes would be allowed to participate in international sports competitions – and which athletes would not, for instance by not issuing visas for athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus.

“Some governments were and are threatening their national athletes to withdraw funding if they were to compete against Russian or Belarusian competitors. Some governments were and are prohibiting their national athletes from participating in competitions against Russians and Belarusians. Some governments were and are pressuring their national athletes through public opinion.

“The participation of athletes in sports events can only be on sporting merit and with those athletes who respect the rules of sport. We cannot allow governments to decide on political grounds who can participate. This would put the international sports model at risk, and we will never accept that. It is also against the international resolutions that governments signed up to.

“This put us in this big dilemma: We had to act against our values and our mission to unify the entire world in peaceful competition. We had to prohibit athletes from participating only because of their passport.

“This is why we have made it very clear from the very beginning that we need to explore ways to overcome this dilemma with regard to athletes’ participation.”

The IOC President highlighted that the EB members today took note that the IOC has received great encouragement and support to overcome this dilemma and to accomplish the unifying mission of peace, in particular in the last few weeks.

Following the IOC President’s intervention at the recent G20 Leaders’ Summit, the Chair of the G20, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo, expressed his support for the political neutrality of sport, while at the same time emphasising the unifying power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Support also came from Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, host of the next Olympic and Paralympic Games. He recently said: “Sport should not be politicised.” Specifically mentioning the Olympic and Paralympic Games Paris 2024, he underlined that such major events are meant to allow athletes from all countries, sometimes including countries at war, to live their sport.

Meanwhile, the UN General Assembly adopted on 1 December 2022 the resolution A/77/L.28: “Sport as an enabler of sustainable development” by consensus, including Ukraine, Russia and Belarus. It recognised that major international sports events “should be organised in the spirit of peace” and that “the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected”.

It also supports the political neutrality of the Olympic Movement and “the independence and autonomy of sport as well as the mission of the International Olympic Committee in leading the Olympic Movement”.

Opening the debate in the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the President of this 77th Session of the UNGA said: “I encourage all Member states to preserve the unifying spirit of sports and the Olympic Movement. It is far more promising to the world if nations compete on the fields of sports than on the battle fields. The former makes us more noble and stronger, the latter leaves death and devastation behind.”

An important role in the IOC EB’s discussions was also played by a letter received from the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The letter said: “We express serious concern, however, about the recommendation to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials such as judges from international competitions, based solely on their nationality, as a matter of principle. This raises serious issues of non-discrimination.”

In conclusion, the IOC President stated:

“All the members of the IOC EB emphasised the importance for the Olympic Movement to accomplish its unifying mission as it has always done with regard to too many other conflicts and wars, past and present. The Olympic Movement must be a unifying force and not a dividing force. This is the mandate the IOC EB today unanimously gave to the representatives of the IOC in the Olympic Summit on Friday.”

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