War of aggression against Ukraine – Participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics?
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 22 June 2023 (18th sitting) (see Doc. 15795, report of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education
and Media, rapporteur: Ms Linda Hofstad Helleland). Text adopted by the Assembly on
22 June 2023 (18th sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly condemns
once more, in the strongest terms, the full-scale war of aggression
waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, with the complicity
of the Belarusian regime. The consequences of this deliberate flouting
of international law reverberate far beyond the borders of Ukraine or
even of Europe: all regions of the world are affected.
2. No means can be spared to demonstrate our entire repudiation
of the Russian and Belarusian leadership and regimes. Politicians
and public authorities must lead the way, but major organisations
and institutions acting in the public and private spheres should
also stand up, bringing the weight of their moral authority and renown
to the public consciousness.
3. The sporting world is an influential societal actor which,
at national, regional and global levels, wields immense economic,
social and even political leverage and the decisions of which have
a huge resonance and deep global impact. At its best, sport brings
together countries, societies, people and cultures to a playing
field where differences can be put aside and the exchanges are based
on values such as mutual respect, diversity, equality and inclusion.
For these same reasons, the Assembly considers that the sporting
world must today play its role in responding to a situation in which
a major world power has thrown aside its obligations under international
law with such devastating consequences.
4. In April 2022, the Assembly’s Committee on Culture, Science,
Education and Media welcomed the calls by the International Olympic
Committee (IOC), which urged all international sports federations
to relocate or cancel their sports events planned in the Russian
Federation or Belarus and recommended international sports federations
and sports event organisers not to invite or allow the participation
of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international
competitions. Moreover, the 17th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers
responsible for Sport (Antalya, Türkiye) adopted on 26 October 2022
a resolution in which the ministers condemned the Russian Federation’s
aggression against Ukraine and considered that the Russian Federation
and Belarus should not be represented in international sport as
long as this aggression continues.
5. Concerned by the ongoing debate within the IOC on the possibility
for athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport to participate
in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games as “neutral” athletes,
the same committee organised a hearing in April 2023 with the participation
of invitees active in the ongoing discussions on this question.
At this hearing, Assembly members listened to different points of
view, including positions on the need to ensure non-discrimination
in sport, the wish to keep sport separate and independent from politics
and State intervention, as well as further details on the criteria
for neutral participation currently under examination by the IOC
and how different sports bodies may ultimately take different stances
on this matter. The Standing Committee of the Assembly, meeting
in Riga on 26 May 2023, held a current affairs debate on this question.
6. While recognising the complexity of the issues at stake and
that views may differ on the best approach, the Assembly holds that
the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic
and Paralympic Games in the current context is unthinkable, would
certainly be used as a tool of propaganda, and would de facto prevent other athletes,
not least Ukrainian athletes, from participating.
7. Having taken into account all perspectives and arguments raised,
the Assembly is convinced that the endeavour undertaken by the IOC
to establish a set of acceptable criteria allowing for the participation
of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutral, individual competitors
in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games cannot provide the
necessary guarantees and will not constitute a response worthy of
the values of human dignity and peace enshrined in the Olympic Charter.
8. Past experience at the Beijing and Sochi Olympics has shown
that the Russian regime is more than ready to misuse the Olympic
truce. Bearing in mind that elite Russian and Belarusian athletes
receive State salaries and are often part of military sports teams,
it seems impossible that they could demonstrate their neutrality
and distance from these regimes, let alone make any declaration
against the war. Indeed, athletes wishing to do so would certainly
be putting themselves in a dangerous situation. Moreover, the individual decisions
of each sports body on whether or not to allow Russian and Belarusian
athletes to take part in the relevant competitions as neutral athletes
could only lead to confusion and unequal treatment, and in recent weeks
it has been shown that the Russian and Belarusian regimes will nonetheless
use any victories of such neutral athletes in their propaganda,
thus creating a narrative of acceptance and normalisation that downplays the
gravity of the Russian and Belarusian Governments’ actions.
9. Above all, the arguments for permitting the participation
of Russian and Belarusian athletes, on the grounds of neutrality,
independence of the sports movement and non-discrimination, do not
carry sufficient weight faced with the imperative of condemning
and repudiating the atrocities being committed and of demonstrating
the international community’s complete and unwavering support for
Ukraine as the onslaught continues. By imposing the ban in response
to military aggression against Ukraine, the IOC would demonstrate its
commitment to upholding the values of the Olympic Games, foster
the pursuit of peaceful solutions to conflicts and send a clear
message to the Russian and Belarusian Governments that their actions
have consequences and that the international community stands in
solidarity with Ukraine. The Ukrainian fight for freedom is our
fight; this should not be forgotten or overlooked and should continue
to guide our responses to the Russian war of aggression.
The Assembly therefore:
urges national IOC representatives and national and international
sports federations to express their opposition to the IOC’s proposal
to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate, even as
neutral athletes, in the upcoming Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games;
10.2 calls on the IOC and its constituent sports bodies to
maintain the position expressed in 2022 and to prohibit the participation
of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games
and in all other major sporting events, for as long as the war of
aggression continues. Such a ban can only enhance and further promote
the worthy objectives of peace and equality embodied by the Olympic
Movement and by sport in general. It does not weaken or blur the
independence and values of sport.