UK government calls on sponsors to support exclusion of Russians and Belarusians
Will there be Russian and Belarusian athletes at the Olympic Games (OG) in Paris? About five hundred days before the event, the question still remains unanswered. Despite the continuing war in Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) paved the way for their reintegration on January 25, by proposing that they could participate in the Olympic Games, however under ” strict conditions »like that of ne in no way represent their State or any other organization in their country..
The British government has never hidden its firm opposition to their return to the international scene, as long as the fighting continues in Ukraine. London is now counting on the support of the Olympic Games partners to back up its point. The British secretary for culture and sport, Lucy Frazer, sent a letter on Saturday March 11 to the British general managers of thirteen of the world’s biggest sponsors of the event, including Coca-Cola, Samsung and Visa.
“We know that sports and politics in Russia and Belarus are closely linked, and we want the regimes in Russia and Belarus not to be allowed to use sports for propaganda purposes”explains M.me Frazer in his missive. Last month, the British government issued a joint statement with thirty-four other countries – including France and the United States – in which they urge the IOC to “review your position”. Among the criticisms formulated in this text, the lack of clarity behind the word “neutrality” chosen by the authority to designate the hypothetical status which Russian and Belarusian athletes would benefit from in Paris.
Ukraine had already sent a letter to the sponsors
“As an Olympic Partner, I would like to hear your views on this matter and ask you to join us in pressing the IOC to address the concerns raised in our statement”added the British secretary to the address of the partners of the Olympic Games.
“Until our concerns and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail about a viable ‘neutrality’ model are addressed, we refuse to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to be allowed to return to competition. »
Ukraine has already threatened to boycott the 2024 Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes take part. In February, the government of Volodymyr Zelensky had also sent a letter to the main sponsors of the Olympics asking them to take a position in this debate. These companies “certainly want to ensure that their reputation and support will not be used for war propaganda”argued the Ukrainian head of state.
After having pleaded for a while in favor of their presence in Paris under a neutral banner, the mayor of the capital, Anne Hidalgo, also announced on February 7 ultimately not being favorable to the reintegration of Russian athletes as long as the conflict continues. On Franceinfo, the city councilor had declared that she “would find that totally indecent” : “We are not going to scroll through a country that is in the process of attacking another, and pretend that it does not exist. »
Mme Frazer sent his letter to sponsors as the International Fencing Federation (FIE) became, on Friday March 10, the first sports body to come out in favor of the reinstatement of Russian and Belarusian athletesthus opening the way to their qualification for the Olympics.
The FIE, which, for timing reasons, expressed itself before the International Olympic Committee adopted its position on the subject, nevertheless leaves itself a way out by specifying that this decision has been taken “subject to possible future recommendations and decisions of the IOC and in accordance with the conditions of neutrality and individual eligibility”.