After recommending a ban earlier this year that would effectively bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the 2024 Olympics in Paris, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and the IOC executive board have reversed course.
During a news conference Wednesday, Bach said that he and the board would like Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Games despite those countries’ continued invasion of Ukraine.
“What we never did, and we never wanted to do, is [prohibit] athletes from participating in sports only because of their passport,” Bach said. “As we have always done with regard to the many other conflicts and wars in past and present, the Olympic movement must be a unifying force and not a dividing force.”
Bach’s stance is in line with a recent United Nations resolution that international sporting events “should be organised (sic) in the spirit of peace”, and that “the unifying and conciliative nature of such events should be respected.”
Bach suggested that his attitude on the subject would not change if Russian and Belursian forces are still in Ukraine in 2024.
The sports world has approached its sanctions of the Ukraine invasion in different ways.
Tennis’ U.S. Open and the NHL have allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, while Wimbledon and the world’s top soccer organizations — FIFA and UEFA — have banned those countries’ competitors.
Bach praised the approaches of the former — and condemned those of the latter.
Russia, of course, has had separate issues with the IOC in recent years.
Russian athletes have not participated under their country’s flag in the last three Summer and Winter Olympics as punishment for an illegal state-sponsored doping operation. The athletes competed under the team names Olympic Athletes from Russia in 2018, and the Russian Olympic Committee in 2021 (2020 Olympics) and 2022.