Published: Tue, 07 February 2023
“We are fast approaching the one year anniversary of Russia’s illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine, while the Russian regime continues to commit war crimes and intentionally attack civilians. Having Russian and Belarusian athletes compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics is unthinkable and should not be allowed. I am calling on all EU leaders to support a ban on their participation”, said Seán Kelly MEP and leader of Fine Gael in the European Parliament ahead of this week’s European Summit on Thursday and Friday.
The Ireland South MEP has co-signed a letter (attached) sent to the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, which states that the decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow athletes from aggressor states Russia and Belarus to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games “goes against our democratic values which are based on peace and respect for international law”.
“This decision by the IOC diminishes the international recognition and condemnation of war crimes and genocide in Ukraine. With this decision the IOC distances itself from our common values and effectively turns a blind eye to tens of thousands of Ukrainian casualties, many of them innocent civilians”, the letter underlines.
Kelly, a former President of the GAA, said hosting these athletes would seriously damage the reputation of the Olympic Games: “It would be grossly unfair to other athletes and countries participating that the shadow of Russian and its ally Belarus’ war crimes and aggression against the innocent people of Ukraine”, MEP Kelly said.
The Fine Gael MEP also pointed to Russia’s historic record of doping athletes.
There is precedent for such a ban, such as when South Africa was not invited to the 1964 Olympic Games due to apartheid. The text states that in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games Russian athletes took home 71 medals. “Over half of those medals went to Russian athletes whose background is linked to the Central Sports Club of the Army. Through the hands of this same army countless innocent Ukrainian civilians have been murdered and raped, and civilian infrastructure has been destroyed with complete disregard for international and humanitarian law” it states.
The letter is also co-signed by Mr Kelly’s Fine Gael colleague, Colm Markey MEP.