2024 Olympics in Danger of Failure: 40 Countries may Boycott them over Russia and Belarus
Up to 40 countries can boycott the next Olympic Games, which will make the whole event meaningless, said Polish Minister of Sports and Tourism Kamil Bortniczuk, quoted by the BBC. Before his comments, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia jointly rejected the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) plan to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete in 2024.
Ukraine has threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if that happens. But the IOC said on Thursday that a possible boycott would only "punish the athletes".
Bortniczuk said he believed it would be possible to form a coalition of 40 countries, including Britain, the US and Canada, to support blocking the IOC's plans ahead of the February 10 meeting.
He added: "That being said, I don't think we'll be faced with any tough decisions before the Olympics, and if we boycott the Games, the coalition we'll be in will be broad enough to make it pointless."
Last week, the IOC announced it would "explore the way" to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris under a neutral flag, adding that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport". The move drew criticism. The UK government said the plan was "far from the reality of war".
Ukraine's Sports Minister Vadim Gutsait said the country's sports bodies must "strengthen communication" with international federations to uphold the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, which was imposed by the IOC's executive committee immediately after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022
However, IOC president Thomas Bach has since said it was only intended as a "protective" measure against these athletes, and now insists they should not be discriminated against.
On Thursday, the sports ministers of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland said that "any effort by the International Olympic Committee to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, must be rejected." "Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimize the political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries," they added, calling on "all international sports organizations and federations" to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions until the end of the war.
The United States government said it supports the suspension of the Russian and Belarusian sports governing bodies from international sports organizations and also encourages the organizations to stop broadcasting events in both countries.
White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre added that if athletes are allowed to participate in events like the Olympics, it should be as neutral athletes and "it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian state."
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