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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Russia accuses IOC of ‘racism’

Moscow has condemned the International Olympic Committee’s calls to boycott the Friendship Games

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) call for athletes to boycott the upcoming Friendship Games in Russia amounts to racial discrimination, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Wednesday.

The World Friendship Games, first held in 2022, were designed as an alternative to the Olympics after Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from various international tournaments due to the Ukraine conflict.

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This year, the games are set to be held in Moscow and Ekaterinburg on September 15-29, and will comprise competitions in 33 summer sports disciplines, including Olympic and non-Olympic events.

In a press release on Tuesday, the IOC urged its member nations not to send athletes to participate, accusing Russia of using the competition to “politicize sport” and to circumvent international bans.

In response, Zakharova branded the IOC’s actions “completely unacceptable” and “not just politicized, but standing on a par with decisions guided by racial discrimination.”

“These decisions demonstrate how far the IOC has deviated from its stated principles in favor of political expediency and slipped into racism and neo-Nazism,” the spokeswoman said at a press briefing, as quoted by TASS.

Zakharova insisted that any accusations that Russia is politicizing sport and pressuring other countries to participate in the Friendship Games are “absolutely groundless.” Russia is “open to sports interaction with all countries on the principles of equality, non-discrimination, and in accordance with the spirit of the principles of Olympism,” Zakharova stated, adding that “we stand for honest, fair competition.”

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She further emphasized that Moscow will continue to use its position at the UN and other international platforms to fight discrimination in sport and to call for the promotion of equal opportunities for all athletes.

“The World Friendship Games, reflecting the true Olympic ideals, will become the embodiment of friendship, openness, equality and justice. We welcome all athletes and all sports organizations at this real sports festival,” she concluded.

Although the IOC has banned Russia and Belarus from participating in this year’s Summer Games in Paris, it will allow athletes from the two nations to compete as individuals under a neutral flag.

The IOC’s director for relations with National Olympic Committees, James Macleod, announced on Tuesday that just 12 Russian athletes and seven Belarusian competitors have so far qualified to participate in Paris.