Russia castigated over plans to run ‘Friendship Games’ just after Olympics

The Olympic flag next to the Russian flag
The International Olympic Committee has attacked the Russian Federation over its plans - David Davies/PA Wire

Russia has been accused of a “cynical attempt” to politicise sport for its controversial plans to host a ‘Summer Friendship Games’ shortly after the Paris Olympics.

With Russian athletes unable to compete as teams in Paris, and also now excluded from the Opening Ceremony, competitions have been announced in Moscow and Yekaterinburg in September, as well as an event in Sochi in the same year as the next Winter Olympics in 2026.

The International Olympic Committee, which will allow Russian athletes to compete individually as neutrals this summer subject to certain conditions, has now accused the country of breaking the Olympic Charter.

A first Friendship Games was previously organised in 1984 by the Soviet Union and eight other countries after they boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics.

“The Russian government has launched a very intensive diplomatic offensive by having government delegations and ambassadors, as well as ministerial and other governmental authorities, approaching governments around the world,” said an IOC statement.

“To make their purely political motivation even more obvious, they are deliberately circumventing the sports organisations in their target countries.

“It is a cynical attempt by the Russian Federation to politicise sport. The IOC strongly urges all stakeholders of the Olympic movement and all governments to reject any participation in, and support of, any initiative that intends to fully politicise international sport.”

Russia is expected to send a much reduced team to Paris this summer compared with Tokyo three years ago, when athletes also had to compete as neutrals as punishment for widespread doping violations.

The IOC said on Tuesday that there are currently 12 individual neutral athletes from Russia and seven from Belarus who have qualified for the Paris Games.

This is expected to rise to 36 and 22 respectively, compared with the Russia Olympic Committee’s team of more than 300 in Tokyo.

“The logic was very clear to us in that the Individual Neutral Athletes will be competing as individuals, and during an opening ceremony the athletes parade as delegations or teams,” said James Macleod, director of the National Olympic Committee Relations, Olympic Solidarity and Olympism365 at the IOC

“Since there won’t be a delegation or a team, that was the main reason behind that. There is also a precedent which was set at the 1992 Games in Barcelona where the former Yugoslav athletes were competing as individual Olympic participants at the time did not take part in the athletes parade.”

The IOC has also produced an independent anthem, with no lyrics, to be played for any Russian or Belarusian gold medal winners in France this summer.

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