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Sports Ministry recommends Ukrainian athletes keep distance from Russians at Olympics

by Elsa Court and The Kyiv Independent news desk May 2, 2024 3:33 PM 3 min read
A group of Ukrainians demonstrate in front of the European headquarter of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on March 29, 2023 in Brussels, Belgium. (Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)
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Ukrainian athletes should keep their distance from Russian athletes at the Olympics and report any potential provocations, Ukraine's Sports Ministry and Ukrainian Olympic Committee (UOC) said in a set of recommendations published on May 2 ahead of the Games in Paris this summer.

The recommendations were developed to protect the 89 Ukrainian athletes who have qualified to compete at the Olympics, their coaches, and members of Ukraine's official delegation "from provocative situations" and promote their safety in Paris, the UOC and Sports Ministry said.

While Russia and Belarus are not officially invited to the 2024 Olympics, their athletes are allowed to participate as Individual Neutral Athletes, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced in December 2023.

This means they cannot participate as teams, attend the opening ceremony, or display any flags or any official identification with either country.

The Sports Ministry and UOC said that members of Ukraine's delegation in Paris should refrain from direct contact with their Russian counterparts "both in the Olympic Village and outside of it."

Ukrainian athletes should comply with competition rules but stand "as far as possible" from Russian athletes during award ceremonies, refrain from photos or videos with these athletes, and refrain from participating in joint press conferences or interviews.

Members of the Ukrainian delegation should also inform the leadership of the delegation "about any attempts at provocative actions" by Russian or Belarusian representatives, the Sports Ministry and UOC said.  

Official: Russia’s full-scale invasion has killed over 400 Ukrainian athletes
Some in Russia have complained about supposed unfairness of only being able to compete without the Russian flag, said Vadym Gutzeit, the head of Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee. “We’re losing people... Is that fair to us?” he added.

"These recommendations relate to contacts with representatives of aggressor countries, as well as other persons who support the policies of these countries and may be used for propaganda purposes."

Additional recommendations apply to Ukrainian athletes who are members of Ukraine's Armed Forces, Interior Ministry, or other military units, the Sports Ministry and UOC said.

Russia was banned from competing in the Olympics for four years in 2019 due to systematic doping practices, but still participated in 2020 and 2022 under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The ROC was suspended in October 2023 for declaring authority over the athletic organizations of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

The International Olympic Committee urged international sporting governing bodies to treat contests between Ukrainians and so-called neutral athletes "with the necessary degree of sensitivity" after Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was disqualified for refusing to shake hands with her Russian competitor in July 2023.

The International Fencing Federation reversed the disqualification and changed the rules following backlash, replacing the traditional handshake at the end of the duel with a salute, allowing Ukrainians not to approach Russians.

Russia accuses Olympic Committee of ‘racism and neo-Nazism’ over opening ceremony decision
The Kremlin has accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of “racism and neo-Nazism” over its decision to bar athletes from Russia and Belarus from participating in the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics this summer.
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