Russian Olympic Chief: Russia Will Not Boycott Paris Games

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) will not boycott this year’s Paris Olympics, its president said on Thursday, despite restrictions on athletes imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine.

“We will never take the path of boycotting [the Games]. We will always support our athletes,” Stanislav Pozdnyakov, the former Olympic fencer who serves as head of the ROC, said in comments carried by the state RIA news agency.

FILE – Russia’s Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin (C) attends an annual meeting of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) in Moscow, Dec. 15, 2023.

“But we stress that the conditions set by the IOC are illegitimate, unfair and unacceptable.”

The IOC will allow Russians and Belarusians who qualify in their sport for the Paris Games, which run from July 26 to Aug. 11, to take part as neutrals without their countries’ flags, emblems or national anthems.

Neutral athletes will compete only in individual sports and no teams for the two countries will be allowed. Athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine are not eligible, nor are those contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military.

Russia has vigorously protested the restrictions.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday that she preferred that Russians and Belarusians “don’t come.”

“We cannot act as if [Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] did not exist,” she said.

Russians and Belarusians had initially been banned from competing internationally in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, for which Belarus has been used as a staging ground.

In December, President Vladimir Putin cast a shadow over the participation of Russians at the Paris Games, saying he supported them competing but that the country should ponder whether it should take part at all if the event is designed to portray Russian sport as “dying.”

Russian athletes have already taken part in successive Olympics without their flag or anthem in the wake of major doping scandals.

During the Cold War, the United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union and its allies retaliated with a boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

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