IOC boss defends letting Russian athletes compete in Paris Olympics | Other | Sport

The head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has defended the decision to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutrals.

Speaking at a forum in Geneva, Switzerland, Thomas Bach said “individual atheletes cannot be punished for the acts of their governments”. There had been calls to bar Russian athletes after the nation invaded Ukraine in 2022.

The BBC reports Bach saying it was “one war among 28 wars and conflicts going on this world and all the other athletes are competing peacefully with each other”.

The IOC last week said individual athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus would be allowed to compete without flags, emblems or anthems should they qualify for the games.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus had previously been barred from taking part. That remains in place for teams representing either nation.

The IOC has however pledged to banning atheletes and support personnel who support the invasion of Ukraine. It also committed to supporting Ukranian athletes in “every way possible, in order to see a strong team from the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine at the Olympic Games Paris 2024”.

Olympic federations had asked the IOC to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes without national affiliation. However, a number of countries including the US and UK had called for a ban.

Ukraine suggested it could boycott the games. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says Russian athletes cannot be “covered up with some pretended neutrality”.

Bach dismissed talks of a boycott. He told the BBC countries are “allowed to have different political opinions”.

During a forum discussing how sport can help refugees, Bach announced a pledge of $45m (£36m) to help half a million refugees and an additional pledge of $50m for the refugee Olympic team at Paris 2024.

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