The International Olympic Committee urged sports bodies on Friday to cancel or move all events they planned to hold in Russia and Belarus, and stop using the flags and anthems of those countries.
The request from the Olympic body came after UEFA removed the Champions League final from St. Petersburg to the outskirts of Paris, and after the ski bodies and Formula One pulled the upcoming race from Russia.
Volleyball, shooting and hockey all have world championships scheduled to be held in Russia. Hockey is a favorite sport of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his hometown of St. Petersburg is scheduled to host the world in May 2023.
Russia violated the Olympic Truce by invading Ukraine on Thursday, just four days after the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Several Russian soldiers entered Ukraine from Belarus, an ally of Russia.
It was Russia’s third breach of the Olympic Truce in 14 years. Russia invaded Georgia during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing and annexed Crimea shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The IOC statement hints at strengthening the position of the Olympic body in Russia. IOC President Thomas Bach has long been seen as forgiving over Russia’s doping scandal and too close to Putin.
Bach implored countries to “give peace a chance” in opening and closing remarks in Beijing as Putin – who went to China and attended the opening ceremony on February 4 – sent troops and military hardware to Ukraine’s borders in Russia and Belarus. .
The IOC has ultimate authority over the Olympics but recognizes the independence of individual sports governing bodies to organize their own events and select hosts.
The bodies, the IOC said on Friday, “should take into account the violation of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments and give the safety and security of the athletes an absolute priority.”
Russia’s national football team is also scheduled to host a World Cup qualifying playoff match against Poland on March 24 in Moscow, with a second home game five days later if won. FIFA is still considering whether or where Russia can play, although UEFA said Friday the country’s teams cannot host matches in its competition.
In May, Russia is scheduled to host a week-long conference of global sports officials in Ekaterinburg for one of their first face-to-face meetings since the pandemic began. The event, known as Sportaccord, is likely to be canceled in the coming days.
The volleyball governing body is pushing ahead with staging the men’s world championships this year from 26 August-September. 11 in cities across Russia even though the tournament was included in a two-year sanction period as a result of the state-backed doping scandal.
Among the sanctions imposed by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in December 2020 in a doping scandal was that Russia should lose the right to host the world championships. However, the sanctions come with a loophole stating “unless it is legally or practically impossible to do so.”
Another sanction is the banning of Russia’s national identity — the flag, national anthem and country name for athletes and their teams — at the Olympics and world championships. This does not apply to regional events such as the European championships.
On Friday, the IOC said that the flags and national anthems of Russia and Belarus should not be used at any international sporting event.
“The IOC expresses deep concern about the safety of members of the Olympic community in Ukraine and stands in full solidarity,” he said.
The IOC also gives “full support” to the International Paralympic Committee for the Winter Paralympics, which opens next month in Beijing. Russian athletes are ready to compete there, although team names are banned as in the Olympics.
In its statement, the IOC gave no indication of its intentions regarding the Russian team for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Bach has consistently opposed a sweeping ban for any country, although the Olympic Charter, a rulebook that guides the IOC, states that it is the “authority of last resort for any questions concerning the Olympics.”
—Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press
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