The war in the Ukraine is spilling over into the 2024 Paris Olympic Games with some countries threatening to boycott if athletes from Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete.
Estonia and Latvia are among the countries calling for a total boycott of Russia and Belarus following the disastrous invasion of Ukraine.
While Russia and Belarus have been banned from international competition for the past year, its athletes may be able to compete at Paris 2024 under a ‘neutral’ flag loophole.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made clear it “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”.
“A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored,” the IOC said.
Russians and Belarusians would be allowed to compete as “neutral athletes” that “in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country”.
But Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said “that participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is just wrong”.
“Boycotting is the next step,” he said. “Russia has been destroying Ukrainian nation, state, and people for a year. Russia has killed hundreds of Ukrainian athletes, including Olympic and world champions.
“To allow athletes to enter the Olympic arena at the price of blood of Ukrainians: is that fair play?”
Denmark also joined in the chorus of objectors against allowing any loopholes for athletes to compete.
“It is Denmark’s official position that we must not waver in relation to Russia,” Danish Culture Minister Jakob Engel-Schmidt said.
“The government’s line is clear. Russia must be banned from all international sports as long as their attacks on Ukraine continue.”
But the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation has appealed to the IOC to allow athletes who openly oppose Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko to compete.
“The Belarusian Free Athletes should be granted the right to participate in sports competitions and saved from persecution by the Lukashenko regime for their civic position,” they stated in an open declaration.
The head of the Paris 2024 Games, Tony Estanguet, said it was in the hands of the IOC.
“It’s not in the charge of Paris 2024 to decide who is allowed to participate, it’s about the IOC, it’s about the IPC (International Paralympic Committee), it’s about the international federations who will decide which delegations will be allowed to participate,” Estanguet said.