minister has criticised Olympic chiefs for clearing the path for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at the Paris 2024 Games.
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said the International Olympic Committee was a “world away from reality” for announcing the move which came as the US, Germany and UK said they were sending tanks to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Vladimir Putin’s Russian forces.
She said: “In light of the ongoing indiscriminate and barbaric attacks by Russia on Ukraine, over the past 24 hours the United States and Germany have announced they will be providing a significant number of battle tanks. We welcome this support as part of accelerating efforts to secure lasting peace for Ukraine.
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“At this critical time, the International Olympic Committee is now looking at a pathway for Russia and Belarus to be represented in Paris.
“I want to be clear that this position from the IOC is a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people – and IOC President Bach’s own words less than a year ago where he strongly condemned Russia for breaking the Olympic Truce and urged it to ‘give peace a chance.’
“We will strongly condemn any action taken that allows President Putin to legitimise his illegal war in Ukraine – a position the IOC previously shared.
“We, and many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout, and we will now work urgently across like-minded countries to ensure that solidarity continues on this issue.”
The IOC ordered organisers and international sports bodies not to invite or allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in international competitions following the Russian invasion last February.
But Olympic bosses don’t want athletes to fall victim to sporting sanctions and are keen to find a way of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals.
Following a meeting of its Executive Board yesterday, the IOC said “no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport”. It added: “A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored.”
Earlier this week Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian athletes should have “no place” at the Paris Games.