The Register Citizen (Torrington, CT)
Committee president Bach says IOC on history’s side in Russia issue
COURCHEVEL, France — Insisting sports had to respect the human rights of all athletes, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Sunday denied that the organization was on the wrong side of history by helping Russians and Belarusians qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Games.
Bach and the IOC have faced a widespread backlash from Ukraine and its allies, including comments directed at him by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, since setting out a path last month for some athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to international competition despite the war waged by their countries.
Asked Sunday at the Alpine skiing world championships if the IOC could be on the wrong side of history, Bach dismissed the suggestion.
“No, history will show who is doing more for peace. The ones who try to keep lines open, to communicate, or the ones who want to isolate or divide,” the IOC leader said.
“We have shown this in the past with great success in the Olympic movement,” Bach said, pointing to the examples of North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, and Kosovo. “Our role is bringing people together.”
Bach spoke with international media ahead of the men’s downhill, the marquee race in a sport from which Russians and Belarusians were excluded since the war started last February. Ivan Kovbasnyuk
was the only Ukrainian skier taking part.
Kovbasnyuk told The Associated Press earlier at the championships no Russians should be allowed at Paris, echoing comments by Ukrainian Olympic medalists including boxer Wladimir Klitschko, high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh and tennis player Elina Svitolina.
“Russia is killing my people. Not good situation for Olympic Committee,” Kovbasnyuk said in Courchevel.
Bach spoke Sunday of his support for “every Ukrainian athlete. We can from a human point of view understand their reactions, we share their suffering.”
“Every Ukrainian athlete can be rest assured that we are standing in full solidarity with them and that all their comments are taken very, very seriously into consideration,” he said.
The IOC has cited advice from United Nations human rights experts that banning athletes on the basis of their passport would be discrimination.
Germany and Japan were not invited to the 1948 London Olympics after they were the aggressors in World War II and South Africa was excluded from 1964-88 because of its racist Apartheid laws.
“The IOC being committed to human rights, like the international sports federations, has of course to address these serious concerns,” Bach said Sunday, adding Olympic sports had a “unifying mission of bringing people together” amid other wars across the world.