USA backs Russians competing as neutrals in Olympics | More sports News

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States supports moves to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the 2024 Olympics as neutral athletes on the condition that they are not allowed to display their national flags or emblems, the White House announced Thursday.
“The United States supported the suspension of the national sports governing bodies of Russia and Belarus from international sports federations,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.
However, if athletes are invited to an international event, such as the Olympics, “it must be absolutely clear that they do not represent the Russian or Belarusian states,” she said.
“The use of official Russian and Belarusian flags, emblems and anthems should also be banned.”
The US position adds to a growing debate over the status of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the 2024 Paris Games.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky strongly opposes any participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and has called for a ban on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
Russia is pushing for all restrictions to be lifted, arguing that the Olympics should not be politicized.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it was examining a “pathway” for Russians to compete in the Summer Games, likely as neutral athletes.
Writing on Twitter shortly after the White House remarks on Thursday, Zelensky described the IOC’s stance as “legitimizing criminal aggression against Ukraine.”
“We will not allow sport to be used against humanity and for war propaganda!” Zelensky tweeted.
The IOC’s push to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes in Paris has divided the sporting and diplomatic world.
On Wednesday, two UN rights experts applauded the IOC’s decision to allow athletes from both countries to compete, saying no athlete should be “discriminated against on the basis of their nationality”.
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) has also supported IOC initiatives to create a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes.
In a conference call in December, USOPC President Susanne Lyons warned that the “fabric” of the Olympic movement was at risk if athletes were not given the opportunity to compete as neutrals.
Banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from Paris risked reverting to the Olympic boycotts of the 1970s and 1980s.
“There’s conflict in the world every day, countries at war every day, and if people decide they want to boycott things, tit for tat, – ‘You didn’t come to our games , so we won’t come to your games” – very quickly the fabric of the Olympic and Paralympic movement is falling apart,” Lyons said.
US Olympic officials, however, are adamant that athletes could only compete in “strictly neutral” uniforms.
Similar words of support came from the Olympic Council of Asia and the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo.
But Britain, Poland and the Baltic countries have all condemned the IOC’s position.
Writing on Twitter after a meeting with his counterparts from the Baltics and Poland in Riga earlier this week, Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes into the Olympics was “immoral and wrong “.
UK Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said the IOC’s plans were “a world away from the reality of war felt by the Ukrainian people”.
“We will strongly condemn any action taken that allows President Putin to legitimize his illegal war in Ukraine – a position the IOC previously shared,” Donelan said.
“We, and many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently in like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity continues on this issue.”


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