A recent statement released by the Dutch Olympic Committee (NOC*NSF) confirms the board’s decision to support the efforts to get Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the upcoming summer Olympics in Paris.
Referencing research done by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Dutch Committee states that the belief informing their support of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes is that individual athletes should not be penalized for political situations out of their control.
Questions around neutrality
According to the discussions held by IOC members, participation in the upcoming games will possibly be conditional on athletes not representing any national institutions and them not having openly supported the war in Ukraine.
Questions about the possible neutrality of the Russian and Belarussian athletes have been raised regardless of the IOC’s conditions for participation. In Russia, like in many other countries, athletes are financially supported by the government, leading to a discussion around if it is even possible for these athletes to be neutral in times of war.
Despite their support of the IOC’s efforts, the Dutch committee have their reservations about the practicality of the measures. Lieselot Meelker, spokesperson for the Dutch committee, told the Groningen Observer that “regarding the execution of the measures we see a lot of obstacles and are worried.” She specifically mentions that conditions around the expressions by athletes about the conflict are difficult to enforce.
In addition the IOC states that it is contrary to their unification mission to bar people from participating in the games, as participating in sport is a means of uniting people from different nationalities and can serve to bring about peace. Meelker highlights that the Dutch committee supports this principle but has its concerns regarding the implementation of the IOC’s conditions.
Whether these conditions will actually be implemented, however, remains to be seen as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) has repeatedly expressed their disdain of the measures.
Nevertheless the ROC is not the only committee in opposition to the implementation of conditions surrounding participation of Russian athletes. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his contempt regarding the potential measures in a speech last week affirming that “we know how often tyrannies try to use sports for their ideological interests.”
The Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, expressed concern about the participation of Russian athletes in a tweet. In agreement with Zelensky’s remark that sports are often used for ideological concerns, she writes: “Sport is a tool in Russia’s propaganda machine, ignoring that means siding with aggression.”
If Russian and Belarussian athletes are permitted to participate in the games as “neutral” athletes, Ukraine will most likely be boycotting the 2024 Olympics.
They won’t be alone in their cause, however. The spokesperson for the Latvian Olympic Committee has recently expressed to Reuters that they will support Ukraine if Russian athletes indeed are permitted to participate in 2024. “For as long as there is an ongoing war in Ukraine, participation of the Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic Games under any flag is unacceptable,” the spokesperson said.