Czech Senate opposed to Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in Paris Olympics

The Senate has called on the Czech Olympic Committee to reject the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 event. Staff ČTK

Written by StaffČTK Published on 09.03.2023 11:24:00 (updated on 09.03.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

The Czech Senate said that the Czech Olympic Committee (ČOV) should not allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at the upcoming 2024 Olympics in Paris. 

The Senate voted yesterday 67 to 63 that the ČOV should not support Russian and Belarusian athletes competing as neutral athletes in the summer event. They want the ČOV to cooperate with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to help prevent the athletes’ participation.

A ban due to war atrocities

The Czech upper house also wants to prevent athletes from Russia and Belarus “by all means” from taking part in qualifying rounds for the 2024 Olympics due to human rights violations and war crimes committed by those countries. 

"It is unthinkable for a country that provoked a war to promote its regime through its athletes," Senate Vice President Jiří Růžička.

The IOC, which currently is allowing athletes from the two countries to take part under neutral flags, has previously said that the sportspeople can compete because they themselves are not involved in aggression against Ukraine.

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However, Senator David Smoljak called the IOC stance “embarrassing.” Senatorial group SEN 21 chairman Václav Láska has also said that “many Russian athletes are members of the army that murder Ukrainian athletes.” 

Senate Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Pavel Fischer claimed that, should Russian and Belarusian athletes be allowed to compete, there would “be a militarization of the Olympics in the same way that the entire Russian society is being militarized." 

No decision so far

ČOV chairman Jiří Kejval said he is against Russian and Belarusian athletes participating, but that the Czech committee has no real impact since decision-making is up to IOC.

To find a solution to the issue, Kejval announced that he would form a group of legal experts to determine whether athletes from Russia and Belarus can justifiably be banned from taking part in the Olympics.

This development is the latest in a series of debates on the topic of Russian-Belarusian participation in the Olympics, and the stance that Czechia should take. 

A possible boycott?

At the beginning of February, the ČOV said that it would not consider boycotting the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris even if they included athletes from the aggressor countries. This standpoint was reaffirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Lipavský.

One Czech sport committee, however, has pulled its athletes out of a major tournament in a show of defiance. The Czech Boxing Association (ČBA) announced in mid-February that Czechia would not compete in the upcoming World Boxing Championships in protest against Russian and Belarusian boxers participating in the event.

With the 2024 Olympics over a year away, there is still time to decide whether or not Russians and Belarusians will compete at the event. The issue, however, will only increase tension internationally and fuel debate on how closely a citizen should be associated with their country’s actions.

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