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Estonian sports undersecretary: Maybe Russia will withdraw from Olympics

A protest in FGeorgia against Russian athletes partcipating in the Olympics.
A protest in FGeorgia against Russian athletes partcipating in the Olympics. Source: SCANPIX / AFP

Estonia is one of several countries hoping that, despite being cleared by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to compete in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, Russian and Belarusian athletes may still end up not taking part in the games.

Tarvi Pürn, undersecretary for sports at the Estonian Ministry of Culture, said that the conditions set by the IOC may be deemed sufficiently humiliating to Russia and Belarus that they decide not to take part in the Paris Olympics. Pürn added however, that a boycott of next summer's Olympics by Estonia is not currently being discussed.

"Looking today at how tightly the IOC has set the conditions with this decision, it could be humiliating enough for Russia to decide not to actually participate," Pürn told Vikerraadio show "Uudis+" on Wednesday.

"Looking at the situation, this decision in itself is certainly bad. However, if you examine the content of the decision, it could actually lead to a situation whereby Russian and Belarusian athletes do not participate in the Olympics anyway. We can see that there is a kind of mood developing in Russia that these conditions would not be considered acceptable," Pürn said.

Pürn also highlighted the restrictions set by the IOC, which athletes from Russia and Belarus would need to comply with in order to participate in the Olympics.

No athletes connected to the military or internal defense, of which Russia has a majority, as well as those who have openly supported the war in Ukraine and those who do not comply with the anti-doping rules, would be able to participate in Paris. Those who are able to take part would also not be permitted to display their national symbols.

Tarvi Pürn. Source: ERR

"So the size of their delegation now would be at least ten times smaller, according to  estimates. And if Russia's delegation is ten times smaller, without national symbols and without the Russian flag, I think it's quite likely that this could ultimately lead to their delegation not participating," he said.

Commenting on the potential for countries that support Ukraine to make the decision to boycott the Olympics if Russia is able to take part, Pürn stressed that it would depend largely on Ukraine's stance. However, he added that Estonia doing so alone would not be an ideal solution as boycotting the games would require a large number of countries to act together in order to make a real impact.

"To come here today and say that we should definitely make the decision now not to participate in the Olympics would definitely be premature because we don't know how things will turn out. I would emphasize, that a situation in which the Ukrainian delegation, for example, decides to participate in the Olympics, and does so with these few individual Russian athletes who are participating, but meanwhile the Estonian delegation is sat at home, well, I don't know... If someone could explain the purpose of such an action, I would like to hear it," he said.

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Editor: Michael Cole

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