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Aus tipped to join push for Russian Olympic ban

Poland believes 40 nations could call for Russian athletes to be blocked from Paris 2024

Poland believes 40 nations could call for Russian athletes to be blocked from Paris 2024 Photo: AAP

Poland believes it will be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries – including Australia – over the next week that would support the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics.

Baltic nations and Poland earlier on Thursday had called on international sports bodies to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Paris Games and other events while the war in Ukraine continues.

“I’m convinced that a meeting planned for February 10 will reach a conclusion of over 30 or maybe 40 sports ministers, including those from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and Japan, to decisively reject the idea to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part in the Games,” Poland’s Sports Minister Kamil Bortniczuk said.

“Considering this, I don’t think we will face tough decisions before the Olympics and, if we were to boycott the Games, the coalition we will be a part of will be broad enough to make holding the Games pointless.”

The International Olympic Committee announced last week that athletes from the two countries, banned from competing in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for the Paris 2024 Games through Asian qualifying,

although the IOC later said it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus

“Any effort by the International Olympic Committee to bring back Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, even under a neutral flag, should be rejected,” sports ministers from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland said in a statement on Thursday.

“Efforts to return Russian and Belarusian athletes to international sports competitions under the veil of neutrality legitimise political decisions and widespread propaganda of these countries,” it added.

They called on “all international sports organisations and federations” to remove Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions until the war ends.

The three Baltic states and Poland, members of the European Union and NATO which border Russia and Belarus, have been strong supporters of Ukraine and among the first to send weapons following Moscow’s invasion almost a year ago.

Latvia joined Kyiv on Wednesday in threatening to boycott the 2024 Olympics and qualifiers if Russian and Belarusian athletes are included while the war continues in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said allowing Russia to compete at the 2024 Paris Games would be tantamount to showing that “terror is somehow acceptable”.

Organisers of next year’s summer Olympics in Paris have, however, insisted they would abide by the IOC’s decision on Russian and Belarusian participation.

Russians have competed as neutrals with no flag or anthem in the past three Olympics as punishment for state-backed doping.

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