The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday appealed to Ukraine to give their athletes the chance to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics despite a partial ban on competing against Russian and Belarusian athletes.
IOC President Thomas Bach said the Olympic body would support “every Ukrainian athlete” who wanted to take part in Olympic qualifying events in their respective sport.
“We want to make it possible for every Ukrainian athlete to qualify now and participate in the Olympic Games,” Bach said at the start of an IOC session.
“We will support every Ukrainian athlete in their preparation and participation in any competition they want to take part in,” he said.
Ukraine in March banned its national sports teams from competing in Olympic, non-Olympic and Paralympic events that include competitors from Russia and Belarus.
In some individual sports those Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned but in others, such as tennis, Ukrainian players regularly face Russian or Belarusian competitors playing as neutral athletes.
Ukraine’s ban came after the IOC angered Kyiv by paving the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals despite Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year, initially using its ally Belarus as a staging ground for troops driving towards Kyiv in what Moscow called a “special military operation”.
Ukraine had previously warned its sports federations that it would strip them of their status as governing bodies if their athletes competed on the international stage with Russians and Belarusians.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus were banned from most international competitions last year following Russia’s invasion.
But the IOC earlier this year recommended they return to world sport as neutrals, without flag or anthem.
No decision has yet been taken on Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation at the Paris Olympics next year.
“The entire Olympic community, the entire world is longing for Ukrainian athletes shining brightly in international competitions,” Bach said.
“We want them to have the opportunity to qualify for Paris 2024. This means participating now.”