Britain lobbies Olympic sponsors over IOC’s Russia stance


LONDON—The British government has written to the Olympics’ biggest sponsors urging them to pressure the International Olympic Committee (IOC) over its stance of allowing athletes from Russia back into competition.

Most Olympic sports have excluded athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus since shortly after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The IOC initially recommended excluding them on safety grounds but now says keeping the restrictions would be discriminatory.

“We know sport and politics in Russia and Belarus are heavily intertwined, and we are determined that the regimes in Russia and Belarus must not be allowed to use sport for their propaganda purposes,” British Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer wrote to 13 of the Olympics’ biggest sponsors including Airbnb, Visa and Samsung.

Britain was one of 35 countries which signed a statement last month criticizing the IOC plans to allow Russians and Belarusians to return to competition ahead of qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes without national symbols.

Those countries were skeptical about the IOC’s planned neutral status and said athletes from Russia and Belarus should remain excluded if those concerns aren’t resolved, especially regarding athletes with links to the Russian state or military.

“As long as our concerns and the substantial lack of clarity and concrete detail on a workable ‘neutrality’ model are not addressed, we do not agree that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition. Noting the IOC’s stated position that no final decisions have been made, we have strongly urged the IOC to address the questions identified by all countries and reconsider its proposal accordingly,” Frazer wrote.

“As an Olympic partner, I would welcome your views on this matter and ask you to join us in pressing the IOC to address the concerns raised in our statement.”

The release of the letter came as fencing joined judo in reopening access to athletes from Russia and Belarus ahead of qualifying events for the Paris Games.

Image credits: AP

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