Up to IOC to decide if Russia competes, head of Paris Olympics says

Olena Kostevych and Bogdan Nikishin carry Ukraine's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2021.
Olena Kostevych and Bogdan Nikishin carry Ukraine's flag during the opening ceremony in the Olympic Stadium at the 2020 Summer Olympics in 2021. Copyright David J. Phillip/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved
By Euronews with AP
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Ukraine has stepped up efforts to lobby international sports leaders against Russian participation in next year’s Paris Olympics as indications mount that the games could see the biggest boycott since the Cold War.

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A contest that could define the 2024 Paris Olympics is playing out 18 months before medals are awarded. It's giving the International Olympic Committee a political challenge with echoes of the 1980s.

Ukraine fired up its campaign on Friday to have Russia and military ally Belarus excluded from the next Summer Games with talk in Kyiv of a boycott and support from sympathetic governments in the Baltics and elsewhere in Europe.

The IOC responded in a statement that “it is regretful that politicians are misusing athletes and sport as tools to achieve their political objectives.”

Pushback has been fierce in the 10 days since the IOC set out its preferred path for Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not actively support the war to try to qualify for Paris as neutrals.

By citing human rights arguments - that no athlete should face discrimination just for the passport they hold - the IOC has seemed ready to punish the protesting parties rather than the aggressors in the war.

The IOC has pointed to its own rules and Olympic history to make its case.

The document of rules does say that each of 206 national Olympic committees (NOCs) is obliged to participate in the Olympic Games by sending athletes.

Any NOC can choose to boycott an Olympics on a point of honestly held principle - knowing that in Lausanne the act will not easily be forgotten or forgiven.

First boycott since 1988?

No team has boycotted the Olympics since North Korea snubbed the neighbouring South for the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.

That closed a different period in Olympic history after significant boycotts at each Summer Games from 1976 through 1984.

A swath of African countries stayed away from Montreal in 1976 because New Zealand would be there soon after its iconic rugby team toured South Africa.

The United States led the largest boycott in 1980. More than 60 teams refused to go to Moscow after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. IOC president Thomas Bach was among the West German athletes who could not go, denying him the chance to defend the team fencing title.

Payback four years later saw the Los Angeles Olympics snubbed by the Soviet Union and Eastern European allies.

Most famously, South Africa was banned by the IOC from competing at any Olympics from 1964-88 because of its apartheid system of racial discrimination laws.

For more watch Euronews' report in the video above.

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