IOC boss Bach insists on the autonomy of sport
IOC President Thomas Bach has again appealed to politicians to recognize the autonomy of sport when deciding on the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions. “We can only develop the values of sport if politics respects these values,” said the head of the International Olympic Committee in a speech on “Olympics in the field of tension between sport and politics” in Essen on Wednesday.
If politicians make decisions about who can or cannot participate in sporting competitions for political reasons, then sport and athletes become “just a mere instrument of politics. Then it is impossible for the sport to convey its common values,” emphasized the 69-year-old fencing Olympic champion from 1976 from Würzburg.
Bach: “A completely new situation”
This autonomy is praised in speeches by politicians. However, these words and declarations were not always followed by deeds. “This is also shown by the discussion in some European countries. Including, if not to say, especially in Germany,” said Bach. Ukraine even demands the total isolation of all Russians in sports.
“It is a dilemma for us and a completely new situation. Because so far no government and no athlete from conflict countries has demanded total isolation – or threatened a boycott,” he explained. “If we make an exclusion based on political considerations, we are facing a decline in the international sports system.”
Then there would be no more real world championships and universal games. Rather: “We will experience games from different political blocs that have nothing to do with this connecting character of sport across all borders,” Bach warned. National Olympic Committees from Africa, Asia, America, Oceania and also from parts of Europe would point this out.
The I.O.C must therefore make a responsible decision and find cornerstones. This is to ensure “that our sanctions remain in place” and “the conditions for Russian and Belarusian athletes are really respected,” he said.
This is not an enviable task. “Only history will decide who contributes more to peace. Those who try to keep lines of communication open, to encourage dialogue, or those who isolate and divide.” Next week, the IOC Executive will make more decisions. Bach said: “Wish us good luck.”
Sports lawyer: “IOC on the wrong track”
Thomas Summerer, President of the German Association for Sports Law, has meanwhile criticized the IOC for its position on the question of Russian athletes participating in the Olympics. Instead of drawing a red line after Russia repeatedly violated the Olympic truce, practice it International Olympic Committee in an unrealistic policy of concessions and appeasements, wrote the 62-year-old in the magazine “Sport und Recht”. The IOC is “on the wrong track”.
The International Olympic Committee had last Russia and Belarus, also with a view to qualifying for the Olympics in Paris 2024, the prospect of allowing the athletes from these two countries to return under certain conditions.
The IOC dreams of “separating sport and politics. But sport with its radiance is not apolitical,” stressed Summerer. “No Russian athlete gives up their ancestry, state support and instilled patriotism when they slip into a white ‘neutral’ tracksuit with blue and red ‘war paint’.” Last month, sports politicians from 35 nations clashed with calls for a ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris 2024 Olympics increased the pressure on the IOC. Russia and Belarus are already excluded from many international sports competitions.
A year ago, the German Association for Sports Law emphasized that it considers the exclusion of Russia because of the war to be lawful and necessary because Russia does not respect the highest values of sport, peace, freedom from discrimination and fair play.
“The policy of the IOC runs the risk of dividing the international community and conjuring up a boycott,” warned the renowned sports lawyer. “After all, governments from 35 countries on four continents cannot be taken for fools.”