The British authorities are calling on sponsors of the Olympic Games to exclude Russian athletes

The UK government wrote to the major Olympic sponsors asking them to pressure the IOC on its proposals to enable Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete once more in international competitions and at the Paris 2024 Games.

Great Britain is once again leading the way in the politics of influencing politics through economic means

The UK chief executives of the IOC’s international partners, including Coca-Cola, Intel, Samsung, and Visa, have also been requested by the culture secretary, Lucy Frazer, to press the IOC on several significant concerns it has on the prospective relaxation of the ban.

The letter adds, “We are resolved that the regimes in Russia and Belarus must not be permitted to use sport for their propagandist goals. We know that sport and politics in Russia and Belarus are deeply entwined.

“We do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be permitted back into competition as long as our concerns and the significant lack of clarity and clear detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ approach are not addressed,” the statement reads.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is still looking for a way to enable these athletes to compete as “neutral” competitors, such as having them qualify for the Paris Olympics in Asia rather than Europe.

Does the neutral flag change anything?

But, the UK and 34 other nations say that since the IOC’s initial decision to suspend last February, Ukraine’s situation has worsened and that Russia and Belarus should not return until Vladimir Putin ends his illegal conflict.

In a statement released last month, the nations raised grave reservations about whether it would be possible for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete on a neutral basis, given that they are backed and funded directly by their governments. Concerns were also expressed regarding the close ties and connections between Russian athletes and the Russian military.

Frazer’s letter to the sponsors states, “Noting the IOC’s stated position that no final decisions have been made, we have strongly asked the IOC to address the problems expressed by all countries and review its proposal accordingly.

As a partner in the Olympics, “I would welcome your opinions on this matter and invite you to join us in calling on the IOC to address the issues outlined in our statement.”

The letter was sent one day after Russia conducted its most significant missile attack in recent weeks on Ukrainian cities.

Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has also reaffirmed his call for a ban, saying that Russia’s attendance at next year’s Olympics would be a “manifestation of violence.”

“You know whose national team would occupy the first place if the Olympic sports were killings and missile strikes,”

remarked Zelenskiy.

Previous British initiatives

The Women’s World Boxing Championships will take place in India next month, but Great Britain will not compete because of worries about Russian boxers competing under their national flag.

Despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Boxing Association (IBA) disobeyed instructions from the International Olympic Committee and let athletes from Belarus and Russia represent their nations.

According to GB Boxing, concerns about the future of boxing’s role in the Olympic program were another factor in the decision to withdraw from next month’s competition.

The decision by GB Boxing comes as the argument over whether Russian and Belarusian athletes should even be allowed to compete in Paris as neutrals continue to rage. 

Performance under a neutral flag does not affect the perception of these athletes in their homeland, Putin’s greeting of them, and prestigious state gifts. That is, they clearly understand that they represent the Russian Federation, and everything that the officials of the IOC do is perceived as “the whole world is against us, but we go to the end and win!” That is, the propaganda narrative is working, and it must be stopped.

Image: caricature by Oleksii Kustovsky

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