Ukrainian athletes will compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Head of Ukraine’s NOC, Sports Minister Vadym Guttsait, confirmed: «Our athletes must be at the Olympics. Our flag will be present at the opening ceremony, in competitions, informs 24brussles.
Our athletes will represent our state, showing the world that Ukraine exists, has existed, and will continue to exist!» Russian aggression has inflicted irreparable damage on Ukraine, including its sports. Since the full-scale invasion in 2022, Russia has killed over 340 Ukrainian athletes and coaches. Some died on the battlefield defending their homeland, while others fell victim to Russian shelling.
The war has also maimed numerous athletes. 343 sports facilities across 45 Ukrainian cities, including stadiums and sports schools, have been completely destroyed or partially damaged. The argument that sports and politics are separate is hypocrisy. With Russia killing Ukrainians and Russian athletes supporting this aggression, sports and politics are intertwined.
Ukraine’s stance remains unchanged: amid the ongoing, unprecedented, brutal military aggression by Russia with Belarus’s support, representatives of aggressor states should not participate in international sports events. While Russia and Belarus weren’t invited to the 2024 Olympics, this doesn’t mean their athletes can’t compete under a neutral flag. Ukraine finds it unacceptable for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under their national flags, and their neutral flag participation represents a compromise.
The trend of depoliticizing sports has vanished. Sports and politics are intertwined, serving as a powerful tool for expressing opinions and societal changes. Olympic principles and war are contradictory. True sports principles promote global peace, with competition confined to sports arenas. An Olympic principle is anti-war advocacy. Can this principle be upheld while admitting a country at war for nine years, and the second year in a full-scale, brutal, bloody conflict?
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denis Shmyhal stated that states shedding Ukrainian blood for territorial expansion shouldn’t participate in the Olympics. The International Olympic Committee must make a well-considered decision to exclude Russia and Belarus, and if representatives of aggressor states compete under a neutral flag, Ukraine’s athletes shouldn’t be punished for refusing to shake hands with killers. Even a neutral white flag in Russian athletes’ hands is tainted with blood. The Olympics shouldn’t be a platform for whitewashing or legitimizing actions contrary to international sports principles and values.