Siim Sukles, secretary general of the Estonian Olympic Committee (EOK), told ETV's "Terevisioon" show that even if Russian and Belarusian athletes are allowed to qualify for the Paris Olympics, their participation in the games will be minimal.
On October 12, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) suspended the Russian Olympic Committee's (ROC) membership, after the latter moved to recognized as its own members, Olympic councils from the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, all of which are in Ukraine. The move not only constituted a violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity but, according to the IOC, also of the Olympic Charter.
"The most tangible outcome is that the IOC will suspend all projects related to the ROC," Sukles said regarding the decision on ETV's "Terevisioon" show. "After the beginning of the war they already stopped all the money, but now they have been de jure told that they cannot use the name Russian Olympic Committee and they cannot use the Olympic rings. This is more of an emotional or value-based signal that we do not accept what the Russians have done in Ukraine."
However, the IOC added that the decision to suspend the ROC's membership does not affect the discussion surrounding the possible participation of individual Russian athletes in both the Paris Summer and Milan Winter Olympic Games as neutrals. A decision on that issue will be taken at a later date. Nevertheless, according to Sukles, the chances of seeing Russian and Belarusian athletes compete at the Paris Olympics are small.
"The IOC has made the conditions pretty tight. It's not as if Russia or Belarus are in Paris at the moment. As we know, the only way to get to the Paris Olympics is through qualification. Those events are organized by the international federations and only some of them have said that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be able to take part. The IOC has made it very clear that no Russian or Belarusian teams will be going to the Paris Olympics. Individual athletes will only be able to participate if they have not spoken out in favor of war, if they are not affiliated with a military or intelligence sports club and if they are clearly anti-war. These are the conditions that already very many Russian athletes fall foul of," Sukles said.
"If they get there at all, they will not be able to compete under the Russian flag, and their uniforms will have to be neutral. I'm not sure that any Russian or a Belarusian athlete will get there at all, because let's also remind ourselves that the Russian media have already begun creating the paradigm according to which, [they] will not accept these humiliating conditions that require [them] to go to the Olympics without a uniform, without a flag and without an anthem. A position is already being established whereby the Russians can say 'we will not come at all,'" Sukles added.
According to Sukles, an increasingly small percentage of Russian or Belarusian athletes could realistically make it to the Paris Olympics. In wrestling and swimming, for example, Russian competitors still have Olympic ambitions.
"However, the International Swimming Federation has decided that there will be only one Russian per distance. There may still be more to come, but the most important thing is that there will be no teams and that the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Sebastian Coe, said after the full-scale invasion had started that there would be no athletes from Russia or Belarus in Paris. These may be quite marginal disciplines, if you can even talk about marginal disciplines at the Olympic Games," Sukles said.
According to the EOK secretary general, it is also theoretically possible that Ukrainian and Russian athletes could end up facing each other at the Olympics. If such a situation does arise and a Ukrainian athlete refused to compete, they would, on the basis of the Olympic Charter, be stripped of their accreditation sent back home.
"Again, this is our understanding, which is not shared by 90 percent of the rest of the world. It has a bit to do with geography and a bit to do with history. The secret is, that we know who our neighbor is; we see and know what they are capable of. The further away from Russia's border, the more uncertain this perception becomes. In Australia, in Africa, in South America, no one understands the struggle we are fighting on every front, whether that's on a parquet floor or in the trenches," Sukles said.
Editor: Michael Cole