On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued his campaign to have Russian and Belarusian athletes banned from competing in the 2024 summer Olympics in Paris. If Zelensky gets his way, the banned athletes would also be prevented from competing under a ‘neutral’ flag.
In a call with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, Zelensky said that it is critical for Russia to suffer “complete isolation,” including at the Olympics. Zelensky told Bach during the call, “Since February, 184 Ukrainian athletes have died as a result of Russia’s actions. One cannot try to be neutral when the foundations of peaceful life are being destroyed and universal human values are being ignored.”
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The call between the two presidents happened after the IOC announced a reversal last week on their previous intention to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the 2024 Olympics. Bach and the IOC has decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag which would essentially prevent there from being an official team under either the Russian or Belarusian flags.
At a press conference last week, Bach said about the change, “Athletes cannot be punished for acts of their government as long as they do not contribute or support it.” Bach concluded his remarks by stating, “What we never did and we never want to do is prohibiting athletes from participating in sports only because of their passport.”
After the call both Bach and Zelensky agreed to stay in contact. Should Russians and Belarusians be allowed to compete under a neutral flag, it would not be the first time such an occurrence has happened. At the 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing, Russian athletes were forced to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee flag. The alternate flag was selected due to previous sanctions on Russia by the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is unclear whether Russia will send any athletes to the 2024 Olympics if they are to compete under a neutral flag.
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