UK urges Olympic sponsors to back ban on Russian athletes

London hopes that pressure from sponsors will sway the International Olympic Committee

By
AFP
A general view of Olympic rings. — AFP/File
A general view of Olympic rings. — AFP/File

LONDON: Britain has called on Olympic sponsors including Coca-Cola and Samsung to support a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing at next year's summer games in Paris.

London hopes that pressure from sponsors will sway the International Olympic Committee (IOC), with a year and a half to go until the Paris 2024 games.

"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," the government said in a letter Friday to the heads of the IOC's 13 official global partners, including Coca-Cola, Airbnb, Samsung and Deloitte.

"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," it added.

The IOC in January outlined a roadmap to reinstate Russians and Belarussians, excluded from world sport since the invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, under a neutral flag provided they did not actively support the conflict.

Governments of more than 30 countries have asked the IOC for "clarification" over how Russian and Belarusian athletes would be able to compete.

"We have strong concerns on how feasible it is for Russian and Belarusian Olympic athletes to compete as 'neutrals'... when they are directly funded and supported by their states," said the letter.

The joint letter followed a summit earlier in London attended by France, Britain, the United States and Canada, among others.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also spoke at the conference.

Ukraine is opposed to the possibility of Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in Paris, even under a neutral banner, and has even threatened to boycott the competition.

The International Fencing Federation on Friday decided to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Olympic qualifying events, sparking outrage in Kyiv.