Latvia speaks out against allowing Russian, Belarusian athletes in Olympic competition

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The Latvian Olympic Committee (LOK) on February 1 spoke out against allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympic Games amid fears that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is paving the way for that to happen.

A statement issued by the LOK reads:

Condemning the military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine, its independence and territorial integrity, as well as terrorism and brutal violence turned against the people in Ukraine, the Latvian Olympic Committee (NOC Latvia) believes that Latvian athletes and sports representatives should not participate in the same competitions and as athletes and representatives of Russia and Belarus.

The position of NOC Latvia has been, is and will be unwavering and principal – for as long as there is an ongoing war in Ukraine, participation of the Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic Games under any flag is unacceptable.

Thus, the Olympic movement in Latvia demonstrates a nationally united position that clearly and unambiguously defines the stance towards Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine and the brutal events in the neighbourhood.

NOC Latvia believes that any actions aimed at returning the Russian and Belarusian athletes and sports representatives to international sports arena – in the framework of competitions or otherwise, under their national flags or any other symbols – is anything but encouragement for further escalation of warfare, and normalization of war crimes and brutal violence. It is our duty to draw the attention of our members and our foreign colleagues to these aspects based on our experience obtained during the years of totalitarian Soviet occupation and seem self-evident for us, but unbelievable for representatives of western democracies.

Believing that the current priority is solidarity with the Ukrainian nation and Ukrainian sports, it is necessary to make decisive steps to restrict the “soft power” of Russia and Belarus in both Latvia’s and international sports arenas, therefore NOC Latvia calls on the Olympic sports federations, in cooperation with the Ukrainian, Baltic, Nordic, Polish, French, British, Canadian and any other like-minded organizations, to address in writing the relevant International Federations in order to prevent participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in any kind of Olympic qualification competitions and the Olympic Games.

NOC Latvia recommends that every Olympic sports federation publicly expresses the organization’s position on the inadmissibility of participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes, informing their athletes and coaches thereof.

NOC Latvia deems unacceptable for Latvian teams and individual athletes to participate in such international sports competitions that have not expelled Russian and Belarusian athletes from the participation, including the Olympic qualifications competitions.

"We have committed together with like-minded countries - these are Ukraine, the Baltic States, the Nordic group, France, Great Britain, Canada, as well as other national Olympic committees, to look for all opportunities to limit the soft power of Russia and Belarus. Both in Latvia and in international federations," LOK president Žoržs Tikmers told Latvian Television.


Statement by NOCLatvia 20230201 ENG.pdf


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One of the Latvian sports federations, which may have a very difficult time convincing its international organization, is the Judo Federation.

The general secretary of the Latvian Judo Federation, Vsevolods Zeļonijs, does not predict the outcome, but is surprised that the IOC first condemned the war and now wants to allow Russian athletes to participate in the games.

"It's a very strange decision. I don't understand why," said Zeļonijs. "We see that today we are for, tomorrow we are against. It's not right. We have one, unified vision, don't we?"

The IOC on Monday rejected criticism from Ukrainian officials over implicit support for Russia's the war. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukraine's president, accused the IOC of promoting violence, misery and mass murder with a desire to give Russia a platform to promote genocide. The IOC stated that such messages cannot serve as a basis for any constructive discussion. 

The IOC is now expected to gauge the reaction of sports federations to its proposal. The Baltic states are among the loudest voices against allowing athletes of aggressor states to compete in the Olympics.

In January the IOC expressed its commitment to explore ways in which athletes from Russia and Belarus could participate in the Paris Olympic Games in 'neutral' status.

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