President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach argued in favour of providing conditions for the entrance of Russian and Belarusian athletes to tournaments during a speech on March 23 in Essen. According to the head of the International Olympic Committee, the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians only based on citizenship would constitute “discrimination,” and the Olympic Games “may contribute to (the) discussion in a stressful moment.”
At the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the IOC advocated that Russia and Belarus be excluded from the competition. However, under the leadership of Thomas Bach, the IOC now supports the admission of athletes competing under neutral flags in qualifying competitions preceding the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
Bach stated that he rejects “political influence on sport” and any idea that Russians should be treated “as though they bear collective guilt.” The IOC has stated in the past that it will not let athletes who “actively support the war” but has left the final decision up to the sports federations. Thomas Bach explained in his speech that the committee views, among other things, the wearing of Z insignia by athletes and social media posts as active support for the conflict.
Bach’s speech was met with a protest
Bach’s stance regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes is harshly criticised. About 150 protestors gathered in front of the Essen Philharmonic, where the event featuring the IOC president took place. The Ukrainian-German organisation “Opora” organised a protest against the prospective admission of athletes from the Russian Federation and Belarus to the Olympic Games.
During Thomas Bach’s address, the issue of what to do with Russian athletes serving in the Armed Forces was also raised. The head of the IOC said that a decision could be made next week at a praesidium meeting.
FIE supported the entrance of Russian and Belarusian fencers
Earlier, the International Fencing Federation (FIE) resolved to reinstate Russian and Belarusian participation in international events. IOC suggestions determined the FIE vote. This move was severely criticised in Ukraine, Germany, and the United States.