IOC president Thomas Bach speaks during an IOC executive board meeting on March 27, 2023.
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International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach has blasted some European governments as “deplorable” for what he calls their “negative reactions” to the organization’s stance on Russia.
Bach’s comments came in a press conference Thursday on the final day of a three-day meeting by the IOC’s executive board at Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland. He didn’t name the countries he was specifically referencing in his opening remarks.
“It is deplorable to see that some governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic movement and of all the stakeholders, nor the autonomy of the sport which they are appraising and requesting from other countries in countless speeches, UN resolutions, European Union declarations and at every other opportunity,” Bach said.
It had been announced Tuesday that a decision had not been made on whether athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport would be eligible to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, and that remained the case on Thursday.
On Tuesday, the executive board also issued a recommendation to international federations and sports event organizers with six points, which included having athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport compete as neutrals, while athletes who “actively support the war” cannot compete.
On Thursday, Bach said the board discussed the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the reaction it received to those recommendations it had released.
Feb 11, 2022; Yanqing, China; Vladyslav Heraskevych (UKR) competes in mens skeleton heat 3 during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Yanqing Sliding Centre.
Andrew P. Scott/USA Today Sports/Reuters
“It is deplorable that these governments do not address the question of double standards, with which we have been confronted in our consultations. We have not seen a single comment from them about their attitude towards the participation of athletes whose countries are involved in the other 70 wars and armed conflict in the world,” Bach added.
“It is even more deplorable that they grossly neglect the very clear statement of the two Special Rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council, while in other issues they’re always highlighting their firm requests for the respect of human rights. These government interventions have even strengthened the unity of the Olympic movement.
“All stakeholders make it very clear again. It cannot be up to the governments to decide which athlete can participate in which competition. This would be the end of world sport as we know it today.”
Bach said that after receiving responses to Tuesday’s suggestions, he can “only reaffirm that the entire Olympic movement strongly stands by its values and by its mission to unite the world in a peaceful competition.”
He also said that it is now up to the international federations, “under their sole authority, to decide whether they want to take up such a pathway” for participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport.
Horrors of war
It comes as the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has cataloged thousands of cases of civilian casualties in the Ukraine conflict in the six months to the end of January, along with cases of torture, rape and arbitrary detention.
In its latest report, issued Friday, the OHCHR said that “the human rights situation across the country remains dire amid the ongoing armed attack by the Russian Federation against Ukraine.”
It had “verified numerous allegations of arbitrary deprivation of life, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearance, torture and ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence.”
CNN’s Sammy Mncwabe contributed reporting.