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Cooks not approached on Russian Olympic Games ban

Wednesday 22 February 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Sports


Cooks not approached on Russian Olympic Games ban
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has already suspended Para athletes from Russia and Belarus from competing in IPC qualifying events or the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games. 23022210

Cook Islands appears not to have been approached to add weight to growing support for an international ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions, in the face of an attempt by the International Olympic Committee to allow them to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics.

While the New Zealand Government has pledged its support for an international ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions, Cooks Islands Government has not yet been contacted. 

Cook Islands News contacted Government on Monday asking if it was backing New Zealand on it pledge.   

New Zealand and 33 other countries have called on the IOC to clarify its position, saying they don’t believe Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed back into competition given the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

A Government spokesperson on Tuesday said they were they hadn’t been able to find any approach to Government seeking its support for the initiative.  

It follows announcements on Monday that New Zealand Sports Minister Grant Robertson signed a statement on behalf of New Zealand.

He told reporters on Tuesday (NZ) that the statement specifically refers to the Olympics.

“Obviously the Olympics is a major sporting event, but the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine continues. It is really important to note that sporting bodies will ultimately make the decisions about who goes so the New Zealand Olympic Committee and Paralympics New Zealand will be the people who decide,’’ he said.

In response to Robertson’s comments, the New Zealand Olympic Committee (NZOC) said it understands and respects the government’s view.

“This is a live conversation, and more time and consultation are required before we consider the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus at the Paris Olympic Games,” an NZOC spokesperson said.

“As we move closer to Paris 2024, we’ll continue to work with the NZOC Athletes’ Commission to make sure we understand and reflect their perspective.”

NZOC specified it emphatically condemns the actions of the Russian state.

Paralympics New Zealand chief executive Fiona Allan said they respect the government’s decision but moved to clarify that the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the IOC are separate international bodies.

“A decision has already been made by the IPC Membership in November 2022 at the IPC General Assembly in Berlin to suspend the National Paralympic Committees of Russia and Belarus from the IPC Membership,” Allan said.

“Currently, Para athletes from Russia and Belarus can not participate in IPC qualifying events or the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.”

Both NPC Russia and NPC Belarus have the right to appeal the decision.

“Should any appeal not be upheld then only the General Assembly can revoke the suspension. The next IPC General Assembly is due to take place in the final quarter of 2023 at a venue yet to be confirmed,” Allan said.

When asked about the position held by some that politics should not interfere in sports, Robertson said: “What I'd say is for the people in Ukraine, their lives have been destroyed by the Russian invasion. It is an illegal invasion. We are making a statement about what New Zealand believes as a country but I reiterate the statement and all the other ones we've signed, indicate their sporting bodies are autonomous of government. They will be able to make their own decisions.”

The signatories include officials from nations including the United States, Britain, France, Canada and Germany. Those five countries brought nearly one-fifth of all athletes to the Tokyo Games in 2021, AP reported.

Other countries that had suggested an Olympic boycott was possible if the war continues – such as Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Denmark – also signed onto the statement, which did not go so far as to mention a boycott.

The statement was the product of a summit in London between government leaders, who heard from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He said Russia athletes had no place at the Paris Games as long as the country's invasion of Ukraine continues.

The International Olympic Committee is trying to find a way to allow Russians into the Olympics, citing the opinion of United Nations human rights experts who believe Russians and Belarusians should not face discrimination simply for the passports they hold, AP reported.

The IOC wants competitors from those countries who have not supported the war to be able to compete as neutral athletes, with no symbols of their countries allowed.

An IOC spokesman said the committee has already begun a process to outline the circumstances under which Russians could compete in international competition if, in fact, it decides to continue down the current path, AP reported.

It's a decision that needs clarity long before next summer's Olympics because 2023 marks the start of the Olympic qualifying period. Russia and Belarus, traditionally considered part of Europe in the international sports system, have instead been invited to compete in some Asian qualifiers later this year.

Stuff/ Cook Islands News