Ukraine’s Sports Minister Vadym Gutzeit does not “exclude the Russians making a ‘goodwill gesture’ not to go” to the Paris Olympics next year, he told AFP in an interview.
Gutzeit added if the Russians and Belarusians were permitted by the IOC to compete in Paris as neutral athletes and Ukraine boycotted the Games “other countries that have suffered from Russian imperialism at different stages of their history will join this boycott”.
The IOC has yet to make a decision on whether Russians and Belarusians can take part in the Paris Games — which run from July 26 to August 11, 2024 — as neutral competitors.
Since Russia launched its war in Ukraine in February 2022, the IOC imposed sporting sanctions on Moscow and its ally Minsk, but earlier this year it recommended Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete as individuals in qualifying events under a neutral flag and with no anthem.
The decision provoked howls of protest from both the Ukrainian government and their athletes criticising the IOC for placing the human rights of Russian athletes above theirs.
This resulted in Ukraine barring their athletes from competing at events where Russians and Belarusians were — tennis being the exception as it has been since the invasion as players compete as individuals.
However, last month there was a dramatic change of tack from the Ukrainian government permitting their athletes to compete in competitions where the Russians and Belarusians were competing as ‘neutral athletes’.
RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY
Gutzeit is well aware of how important the quadrennial spectacle is to athletes having won fencing gold in 1992 in Barcelona in what was a Unified Team made up of 12 of the former Soviet Republics including Russia.
Ironically one of his team-mates in the gold medal winning sabre team was Stanislav Pozdnyakov who is now his avowed opponent as he is the head of Russia’s Olympic Committee.
“If Russian athletes are at the Olympics, then Russian propagandists will try to turn this celebration of sport into a celebration of propaganda, just as Hitler once did,” Gutzeit said referring to Nazi Germany’s hosting of the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
“I believe that the IOC will not allow the aggressors to do this.
“I also do not exclude that the Russians will make a ‘goodwill gesture’ and say that they will not go.”
Gutzeit, who has been in his post since 2020, said he is confident the IOC and sports federations will bar the Russians and Belarusians from the Games.
“The ball is now in the court of the IOC and international sports federations,” he said.
“I believe that they will continue to stand on the right side of history and prevent the aggressors from participating in the Games.”
Nevertheless Gutzeit says if they are permitted to compete then Ukraine could still boycott the Games and would be followed by others.
The Baltic states and Poland have been the most vociferous countries in threatening to follow the Ukrainians if they do boycott the Games.
“I do not rule out that if Russians or Belarusians are allowed to participate in the Olympics and we boycott the competition, other countries that have suffered from Russian imperialism at different stages of their history will join this boycott,” he said.
- Never expected this, not in a million years: Travis Head talking about his ton in the ICC World Cup 2023 Final against India
- Mohammed Siraj gets emotional after World Cup final loss to Australia
- India vs Australia, World Cup 2023 final: Travis Head named Player of the Match
- Travis Head becomes fourth player to win Player of the Match in final, semifinal of same ODI World Cup
- Las Vegas Grand Prix: Russell takes the blame for costly Verstappen collision