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Current affairs debate on ‘Excluding athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in the Olympics’

Indrek Saar at current affairs debate on Olympics

“The Olympic Charter clearly states that the goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity. The Russian war of aggression is an indisputable breach of this principle, constituting a crime against humanity. The responsible perpetrators of these crimes shall be brought to justice and not be allowed to hide behind the Olympic flag,” said Indrek Saar (Estonia, SOC), speaking today at the opening of a current affairs debate on ‘Excluding athletes from Russia and Belarus from taking part in the Olympics’.

“We have to recall that Russia has misused the Olympic truce in 2008 (Beijing Olympics), when attacking Georgia, and in 2014 (Sochi Olympics), when attacking Ukraine. That proves Russia’s systematic and deliberate ignorance against every value and principle that Olympism stands for. To end it, we need to act now and guarantee that aggressors have no place in the Olympic movement,” Mr Saar added.

“The use of sport and athletes for political purposes, both in domestic and foreign strategy, is a daily occurrence in Russia and Belarus, just as it was for almost the entire 20th century, in the totalitarian Soviet Union,” said Kaspars Cipruss, Secretary General of the Latvian Basketball Federation, addressing the parliamentarians.

“The absolute majority of sports organisations and athletes depend on state funding. It is not a secret that sports stars are authority figures for many, especially young people. In Russia, this resource is used to continue ‘zombifying’ the younger generation. Only a very small number of Russian sports personalities have publicly condemned the actions of their country's government,” he added.

In order to stop the war, “it is very important not only to financially and materially support Ukraine and its armed forces, but also to give a clear signal from the international community that brutal military aggression is absolutely unacceptable in the 21st century. A signal that should be sent not only to governments, but also to society and to athletes,” Mr Cipruss concluded.

After numerous interventions by Standing Committee members (video recording available soon) the PACE President informed members that the Assembly would hold an urgent debate on the subject at its next plenary session in Strasbourg (19-23 June 2023), at the end of which a resolution will be adopted.