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EDITORIAL | Oppose IOC Call to Allow Russian Athletes at Paris Olympics

The IOC should follow the lead of the World Athletics, which bans Russian and Belarusian athletes until their countries end the Ukraine war.



Russian athletes participated in the Beijing Winter Olympics under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee. (©Photo by Masamichi Kirihara)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that despite the Ukraine invasion, athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus will be allowed to participate in next summer's 2024 Paris Olympics as individual "neutral athletes." This grievously mistaken decision must be reversed.

The IOC claims it will exclude athletes from those nations who actively support the invasion or those who belong to the military or security authorities. Those athletes will not be considered "neutral athletes." 

But does it propose to somehow discover the inner feelings of individual athletes through interviews? Rather, shouldn't the IOC be seeking to protect the rights of athletes who oppose aggression? 

Russian Olympic Committee athletes march into the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. July 23, 2021, at National Stadium in Tokyo. (Pool photo)

Russia's Shameless Use of Its Athletes

In the past, Russia blatantly used the Olympics as a venue to promote its national prestige. 

Russian athletes participated in the 2022 Beijing Olympics as neutral individuals. In that Olympics, they were not allowed to participate as a national team due to doping issues. Nonetheless, when they returned to Russia they were greeted with an enthusiastic welcoming ceremony in Moscow, complete with wildly fluttering Russian flags. 

Immediately after that, President Vladimir Putin gave a televised speech in which he ordered the dispatch of troops for the invasion of Ukraine

Has the IOC already forgotten the bitter experience of Olympic athletes being used as tools for warmongering?

Oleksandra Matviichuk CCL war crimes
ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan stands next to a grave where remains of three bodies were found. In Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine April 13, 2022. (©REUTERS/Volodymyr Petrov)

Respecting the Fundamental Principles of Peace and Human Rights

A basic principle expounded in the Olympic Charter is that athletes should be able to participate "without discrimination of any kind, such as race, color, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

No doubt the IOC would justify its decision based on the rationale that "participation in the Games should not be prevented based on the passport (nationality) of an athlete.''


The fact, however, is that the IOC's own fundamental principles clearly give greater weight to "respect for internationally recognized human rights and universal fundamental ethical principles." Furthermore, placing "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" is also a higher priority.

One would think that the IOC would find an invasion that takes away the lives and livelihoods of so many innocent people as something reprehensible. 

Lord Sebastian Coe in Tokyo in 2020.

Reaction to the IOC's Announcement

Ukraine has strongly criticized the IOC's "irresponsible decision." And World Athletics president Sebastian Coe quickly announced, "You may well see some neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus in Paris. But they just won't be from athletics." He added, "Ours is a settled position."

Coe thus made clear his association intends to continue excluding athletes from both countries from track and field events. 

The Japanese sports community, including the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) and Japanese members of the IOC, should also speak out in opposition to allowing Russian athletes to participate in the Olympics. 

Furthermore, the IOC had continuously postponed making a final decision on this issue. Now it appears to have taken advantage of the shift in the world's attention away from Ukraine. That is due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

We need to make it perfectly clear. Russia must stop its aggression and withdraw from Ukraine. Only then will it be allowed to return to international competition. 


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun


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