Outright exile of Russians and Belarusians from world sports as the price of invading Ukraine: Monday’s dramatic recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is a historic event for an organization that often tends to stand still.
• Also read: Ukraine: FIFA discusses removing Russia from World Cup
• Also read: Sport versus war: several competitions canceled
Announcements are now likely to follow: A source familiar with the matter explained to AFP that FIFA is holding “advanced discussions” to remove Russia from the 2022 World Cup, a planetary event it hosted in 2018.
Potential rivals Poland, Czech Republic and Sweden for the play-offs to be held in March have announced that they will not face the Russians under any circumstances.
The IOC highlights a “dilemma” to justify its recommendation, which came just days before the start of the Paralympic Games (March 4-13): “While athletes from Russia and Belarus can continue to participate in sporting events, many Ukrainian athletes have to do so because of the attack on their Country. blocked.”
To resolve this, it “advises International Sports Federations and organizers of sporting events not to invite or allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and their official representatives to participate in international competitions”.
If the IOC were to be followed massively by international federations, Russia would have joined Slobodan Milosevic’s Yugoslavia and apartheid South Africa in the history of the great pariahs of international sport.
According to Loic Tregourès, author of the book “Le football dans le chaos yugoslave” interviewed by AFP this Monday, “The IOC gives it. Then, FIFA has a basis on which it should not take responsibility for itself”, especially since according to him FIFA’s “statutes” “do not allow suspension of Russia”.
In another symbolic but powerful measure, the IOC has also withdrawn the “Olympic order” from all top Russian officials, starting with President Vladimir Putin.
Stanislav Pozdnyakov, head of the Russian Olympic Committee, said in a statement that the IOC’s decision was “contrary to the regulations and statute, first of all, to the spirit of the Olympic movement, which aims to unite and not divide, but to unite athletes or the equality of participants in the Olympic movement”.
However, the IOC stated that it was not possible to prevent the arrival of Russian athletes “for organizational or legal reasons”, and that the IOC “cannot be authorized to participate under the name of Russia or Belarus”.
The question is especially urgent for the Paralympic Games, which will start in Beijing on Friday.
In “very extreme cases” when implementing these measures is “not feasible in the short term for organizational or legal reasons”, “the IOC leaves it to the relevant organization to find its own way”. Therefore, he is referring to the International Paralympic Committee, reiterating his “full support” that he plans to speak on Wednesday.
Another great aspect of the IOC’s communication on Monday was its break with the tradition of asking athletes to be impartial. The IOC therefore welcomed “the many calls for peace made by athletes, sporting authorities and members of the world Olympic community”. He especially appreciates and supports the peace calls of Russian athletes.”
Tennis player Andrey Rublev, hockey player Alex Ovechkin and cyclist Pavel Sivakov have openly expressed their opposition to the war waged by their country. They now threaten to pay a high professional price if their federations follow the IOC’s recommendations. Such is the case with international football player Fedor Smolov.
Without waiting for the IOC, several countries have already expressed their refusal to accept the Russian presence on their territory in order to compete there.
Preparing to break the sponsorship deal with Gazprom, UEFA canceled the Champions League final in Saint-Petersburg and the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi seven months ahead of schedule. Two very powerful measures that affect the symbolic events of sport are “soft power”, a policy of influence adopted by Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Asked by AFP ahead of the IOC’s new statement, University of Rennes sports geopolitics researcher Pim Vershuuren already believed that “the decisions taken this week are historic and commensurate with the shock”. And to warn: Those who will come, and therefore those that fall on a Monday, will “create precedents and history”.