Ukraine stepped up efforts Friday to lobby international sports leaders against Russian participation in next year's Paris Olympics as indications mount that the games could see the biggest boycott since the Cold War.
A meeting of the Ukrainian Olympic Committee did not commit to a boycott but approved plans to consult with and persuade sports officials around the world over the next two months.
The committee members voted for “consultations on preventing the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in all international competitions and a possible boycott.”
The International Olympic Committee is pushing to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete at the 2024 Paris Games. They would take part without their national flags or anthems as “neutral athletes.”
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The IOC, which previously recommended excluding Russians and Belarusians from world sports on safety grounds, argues that it cannot discriminate against them purely based on citizenship, citing comments from United Nations officials.
Ukraine wants Russia and Belarus to be banned from the Olympics entirely. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said any neutral flag would be “stained with blood.”
Also Friday, the prime ministers of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania urged the IOC to ban Russian athletes and said a boycott was a possibility.
Ukraine boycotted some sporting events last year rather than compete against Russians.
Speakers at the Ukrainian Olympic Committee's assembly meeting Friday raised concerns about Russia using the event in Paris for propaganda and noted the close ties between some competitors and the country's military.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday that if athletes from the two countries compete, “it should be absolutely clear that they are not representing the Russian or Belarusian states.” The United States will host the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
If the IOC's proposal takes effect, Paris would be the fourth Olympics in a row where Russian athletes have competed without the national flag or anthem. The Russian teams at the Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2021 were all caught up in the fallout from a years-long series of doping cases.
The last time multiple countries boycotted an Olympics was in 1988, when North Korea and others refused to attend the Summer Games in South Korea. The North Korean team was a no-show at the Tokyo Games in 2021, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. The IOC barred it from the following Winter Games in Beijing as a result, saying that teams had a duty to attend every Olympics.