The call for bread and circuses is unsuitable for mature democracies. It’s not by allowing the aggressor states’ athletes to participate in the Olympics that the IOC fulfils its maxim. According to this maxim, the Olympic Movement should work towards building a peaceful and better world. It is not. It’s more of a slap in the face of the victims of aggression.
European countries, as well as the US, have a moral obligation to react, also in this field. They should support the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Such an exclusion would not constitute a precedent in history. For example, South Africa was not invited to the 1964 Olympic Games due to apartheid. In 1980 over 60 countries boycotted the Olympic Games after the USA took the lead on this initiative. This was to protest against the arms race and the Soviet Union’s aggression in Afghanistan. The world lived up at that time to the values it claimed to defend. Why shouldn’t it do nowadays?
The reluctance to do so with regard to Russia and Belarus is therefore striking, knowing that more than half of the medals that Russia took home at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics were awarded to Russian athletes whose background is linked to the Central Sports Club of the Army. At the hands of this same army, countless innocent Ukrainians, men, women and children, have been murdered and raped. Through the very same army, schools, theatres, private homes and hospitals in Ukraine have been destroyed with complete disregard for international and humanitarian law.
It is usual for dictators and authoritarian regimes to weaponise sports to expand their influence. For Russia and the Putin regime, sport is primarily a political tool; Russia’s state-sponsored doping programme has clearly demonstrated this. Now, should the democratic world participate in the games where the invaders temporarily swap their arms for sports gear?
International recognition and condemnation of war crimes and genocide in Ukraine are diminished by the IOC’s decision. With this decision, the IOC distances itself from our common values and effectively turns a blind eye to tens of thousands of Ukrainian casualties, many of them innocent civilians.
By not acting, the international community fails to give credibility to its own statements. Also, the one through which the huge majority of European lawmakers qualified Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and called for its international isolation.
European countries have the moral obligation to stand for peace in Europe and cannot abstain from acting. Europe has to lead by example and stand on the side of Ukraine. This is why we call upon European leaders to support excluding Russian and Belarusian athletes from all international athletic competitions.
A letter with this request was already sent, signed by numerous Members of the European Parliament, to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel. This was ahead of the meeting of EU Heads of State or Government. A copy of the same letter was also sent to the IOC.