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In Poland, European Games without Russian or Belarusian athletes

After Minsk, in Belarus, four years ago, it is the turn of Krakow and the region of Lesser Poland to host the third edition of the European Games. These miniature “Olympic Games”, on a continental scale, are an excellent warm-up lap before the summer 2024 meeting in Paris.

For the athletes present, there will in this case be qualifications to be sought for the Parisian deadline in nineteen of the twenty-nine disciplines combined. However, this will not concern either Russian athletes or Belarusians, ostracized following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A decision that the association of European Olympic Committees and the Polish Olympic Committee had announced at the end of 2022.

“Ukraine is our neighbour, and the war is taking place close to home, with tangible repercussions for the Polish population. Poland has taken in three million Ukrainian refugees. We could not imagine that the delegations of the aggressor could compete in Games embodying unity and tolerance,” explain to World Marcin Nowak, president of the organizing committee of these European Games.

“Ukrainians are deprived of a normal life and do not have the opportunity to train. Not to mention the fact that many athletes were killed in Russian attacks,” still justifies the former sprinter, which ensures that the decision achieves consensus in the country. And even beyond, since the sports ministers of the three Baltic countries and Poland have, in a joint statement dated February 2, condemned “Efforts to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in international sports competitions under the guise of neutrality”.

Tensions with the International Fencing Federation

They were thus targeting the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which, after calling for the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians at the start of the war in Ukraine in 2022, changed its discourse at the beginning of this year. The organization, based in Lausanne (Switzerland), asked, at the end of March, the international sports federations to welcome these same athletes on an individual basis, under a neutral banner, excluding those who actively support the war in Ukraine such as those that a contract binds the army or the security services.

Some federations have followed this recommendation, like the International Fencing Federation (FIE). Poland was to organize a stage of the Women’s Foil World Cup at the end of April. But the country demanded from Russian and Belarusian athletes a statement condemning the war in Ukraine. A condition deemed unwelcome by the FIE, which informed him. The Polish federation, refusing to become a vassal, according to its terms, canceled the event.

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