IOC cites support to let Russians compete in Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — The International Olympic Committee cited support from 120 nations on Friday for its moves toward letting some Russian and Belarusian athletes qualify for the Paris Olympics.

The declaration by the Azerbaijan-chaired Non-Aligned Movement of nations said it “would be a strong symbol of unity of humanity” if all 206 national Olympic teams compete in Paris next year.

“Thank you to the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, for taking the initiative for this important resolution,” IOC president Thomas Bach said in a statement.

The IOC urged Olympic sports bodies in March to evaluate Russians and Belarusians for neutral status to compete — if they have not actively supported the war on Ukraine, nor have been contracted to military or state security agencies since February 2022.

The Non-Aligned Movement document was published after a two-day meeting in Baku. Members include most countries in Africa and the Middle East, India and Singapore, plus Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela. Belarus also is a member.

The declaration “stresses that sports should not be politicized,” said the Non-Aligned Movement, whose four-year chairing by Azerbaijan expires this year.

Azerbaijan has seen its own sports teams affected by political and security barriers to staging safe games. Since 2007, European soccer body UEFA has stopped teams from Azerbaijan and Armenia being drawn to play each other in international competitions because of the countries’ long-standing territorial dispute.

Ukrainian and Russian teams also have been separated by UEFA since 2014 because of security risks after Russia annexed Crimea in breach of international law.

FIFA and World Athletics banished Russian teams and athletes from international events after the military invasion of Ukraine started.

The IOC also urged a policy of isolation days after the war started in the week of the 2022 Beijing Winter Games closing. It has since pushed for reintegration, arguing it would be discrimination to exclude athletes just because of their Russian or Belarusian passport.

Other Olympic sports, including cycling and tennis, have let individual athletes continue competing. Key Summer Games sports gymnastics and swimming are weighing their decisions ahead of world championships that can be qualifying events for Paris.


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