On 21 February, the governments of 35 countries issued a statement in response to the IOC’s communication on the possibility to explore ways to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in qualifications for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games under strict neutrality conditions.
The letter, which was signed by 25 EU countries, urges the IOC to define the aforementioned conditions, specifically "neutrality". “As long as these fundamental issues and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition,” the statement reads.
The government representatives also pointed out how intimately linked politics and sport are in Belarus and Russia, which hampers the pursuit of any legitimate road toward competing.
“We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as ‘neutrals’ – under the IOC’s conditions of no identification with their country – when they are directly funded and supported by their states (unlike, for example, professional tennis players)”, the letter reads. “The strong links and affiliations between Russian athletes and the Russian military are also of clear concern. Our collective approach throughout has therefore never been one of discrimination simply on the basis of nationality, but these strong concerns need to be dealt with by the IOC.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine spoke at a meeting of world leaders on 10 February in London, which resulted in the release of the statement. As long as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine persists, the nation’s athletes have no place at the Paris Games, Zelenskyy declared.