International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky are sparring over Kyiv’s repeated calls to ban Russian athletes from competing in the 2024 summer games as Moscow’s war on Kyiv continues.
“We know that Russia is trying to use any attention of the world to the Russians for war propaganda,” Zelensky had said Friday in an address.
“If, God forbid, the Olympic principles are destroyed and Russian athletes are allowed to participate in any competitions or the Olympic Games, it’s just a matter of time – before the terrorist state forces them to play along with the war propaganda.”
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) countered that it would be unfair to keep Russian competitors out of the summer games, which will be held in Paris, France, in 2024.
Bach on Sunday insisted the IOC is on the right side of history for keeping the games open to all athletes.
“It is not up to governments to decide who can take part in which sports competitions, because this would be the end of international sports competitions and world championships and the Olympic Games as we know it,” Bach said, as reported in The Guardian.
Zelensky had railed against the inclusion of Russian athletes with ties to the military.
“228 Ukrainian athletes and coaches died during the year of Russian aggression against Ukraine! 228! And how many Russian athletes have spoken out to condemn the terror unleashed by their state? In fact, there is almost no such condemnation,” Zelensky said.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will reach its first anniversary later this month, as Moscow is reportedly amassing troops for a spring offensive.