Paris 2024 | Kyiv doesn’t want Russian athletes under a neutral ‘bloodstained’ flag

(Paris) The Ukrainian government is “very concerned” by the call from sports federations to integrate Russians and Belarusians into the Paris Olympic Games individually, under a neutral banner, interim Sports Minister Marviy Bidnyi said on Wednesday. ‘AFP.

On Tuesday, the international sports federations asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to admit “as soon as possible” Russian and Belarusian athletes to the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, under a neutral flag.

“As President Volodymyr Zelensky rightly said: ‘Obviously, any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood’,” said Marviy Bidnyi.

“We are counting on a responsible decision and leadership from the IOC which will not allow Russia to use sport for military propaganda purposes,” added the interim minister, whose predecessor Vadym Gutzeit was removed from the government in November.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine triggered by the Russian invasion in February 2022, the IOC has been delaying its decision on whether or not Russian and Belarusian athletes will participate in the Paris Games.

The solution demanded by the sports federations is an admission of Russians under a neutral flag, without jerseys or national anthems.

“Those who want to kill you”

“We respect the principle of neutrality, but neutrality is only possible in times of peace,” protested Mr. Bidnyi: “When there is a war and a nation […] destroys another, then “neutrality” becomes irresponsibility.”

According to Kyiv, the only way for a Russian athlete to participate in the Games should be to change their nationality. “The refusal of the Russian passport is today the only possible way for an athlete to prove that Olympic excellence is his first priority, and that the athlete bears no part of the responsibility for the murders of Ukrainians,” he said. estimated the interim Minister of Sports.

According to him, 40 countries support Kyiv’s position, which wants the outright exclusion of Russians and Belarusians. But Ukraine’s threat to boycott the Paris Games appears to have receded, with several Ukrainian athletes expressing their desire to face and beat the Russians on the competition fields.

The minister believes, however, that such an eventuality, for some Ukrainian athletes, may be hard to live with: “Morally, it is very difficult to enter the arena with those who want to kill you. And not figuratively, but actually kill you.”

“397 athletes and coaches killed”

“Our athletes are constantly faced with provocations from the Russians,” he insisted, “and therefore cannot be in a normal emotional state. I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had to compete with Russians. It’s very difficult. »

For Mr. Bidnyi, it is also likely that Russian athletes are directly or indirectly linked to soldiers active on the battlefield: “Imagine that you enter the arena and that in front of you stands a man behind whom , a few handshakes away, there is a Russian soldier who shot children in Boutcha. Imagine that. »

According to Marviy Bidnyi, the Ukrainian sports community has already paid a heavy price for the conflict. “We have confirmation that 397 athletes and coaches were killed,” he assured, referring in particular to athletes who could have gone to the Olympic Games, such as the shooter Egor Kigitov or the boxer Maksym Galynichev.

“With regard to sports infrastructure, our losses have already exceeded 500 facilities for a total of more than 300 million dollars,” the minister further asserted: “It can be rebuilt, but human lives cannot be restored. »

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