The debate is picking up speed again: Should Russian athletes take part in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris? The International Olympic Committee under its German President Thomas Bach is apparently pursuing this goal. During the week it was announced that numerous federations and athletes’ representatives had spoken in consultations in favor of examining the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes “under strict conditions”.

The Asian umbrella organization OCA (Olympic Council of Asia), which wants to allow Russians and Belarusians to start in its competitions intended for the Olympic qualification, pushed ahead with loosening the ban on Russians. The OCA justified its proposal with the fact that the reasons for the suspension no longer exist in this region of the world. It is not known why this is so. The Russian army continues to wage a brutal war against Ukraine and its people, bombing civilian facilities and homes and spreading war terror across the country. Nevertheless, according to the OCA, participation under a neutral flag and without playing the anthems of Russia and Belarus should be possible.

The IOC put it in a similar way. The conditions are that the affected athletes accept the Olympic Charter and the existing sanctions against Russia.

The reaction of Ukraine was corresponding. Sports Minister Vadym Gutzajt threatened to boycott Ukrainian athletes. “There can be no agreements with representatives of terrorist countries,” stressed Gutzajt. As long as there is war in Ukraine, his country will continue to advocate sanctions against Russia and Belarus. Athletes from these countries are also not allowed to compete under a neutral flag. “I hope that all associations, athletes and the whole civilized world have paid close attention and that we don’t have to resort to this extreme measure,” warned Gutzajt.

Anger in Ukraine about the IOC has been boiling for some time. In December, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj made the position of the attacked country clear in a telephone call with IOC President Thomas Bach. “Many Ukrainian athletes were killed in this war. Many of them are still in Russian captivity today. And at the same time, Russian athletes support this war and the genocide in Ukraine,” said European high jump champion Yaroslava Mahuchich to the “M√ľnchner Merkur”.

In Germany, the front against the Russians taking part in the Olympics is by no means closed. The German Olympic Sports Confederation also takes the position of the IOC, albeit more cautiously formulated, only the conditions sound stricter: The athletes declared as neutral would have to compete without flags, colors, national symbols and anthems. Athletes who fought in the war or openly supported the war would have to remain sanctioned.

The German Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, is clearly against participating. “The sport should be clear in its condemnation of the brutal war that Putin is waging against the Ukrainian civilian population,” she told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. “Major sporting events don’t take place in a vacuum,” says Faeser. “No one should ignore this terrible war in the middle of Europe or send mixed signals. The international sports federations remain responsible for positioning themselves clearly.”

The spokeswoman for the German Athletes’ Association, beach volleyball player Karla Borger, is also against participation. “The breach of international law that is being committed weighs far too heavily,” she said recently. Borger also warned against forgetting a second topic because of the war in Ukraine: the massive state doping in Russia that was uncovered in 2016. That is why Russian athletes had already taken part in the Winter Games in Pyeonchang 2018 and the Summer Games in Tokyo 2021 only under a neutral flag. The Russian anthem was also banned.

Sources: DPA, , Reuters, NDR, “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”, “Blick”, “Welt”