Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský (Pirates) believes that the Czech Republic should do everything to ensure that the Olympic Games do not serve Russian propaganda, but the Czech Republic will not threaten to boycott the Olympic Games. “I don’t think we should go the route of any boycotts. There is consensus on that. During the Cold War, Moscow showed how not to do it, how not to approach it. We have athletes who dedicate their entire careers to being able to compete in the Olympic Games. It is not our role to ban someone from the Olympics. Our role is to advocate for the Olympic Games to represent Olympic ideals,” said the head of Czech diplomacy.
Kejval disagrees with the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Olympics: “I certainly can’t imagine it in the current situation,” he said that everything is possible: “Even a year ago I couldn’t have imagined that I would have such a conversation, so everything is possible,” he did not rule out that Russians and Belarusians will participate in the Olympic Games in Paris.
“It needs to be said that in no case will it happen that Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under their flag. We, as the European Olympic Committees, did not agree to this. The question of how the Olympic qualifications will take place was on the table. The European Olympic Committees said that under this situation there is no European qualification to be held in Europe. But we were surprised by the reaction of the Asian Olympic Committees, who offered the possibility of qualifications in Asia,” he said. Now we are waiting to see how the world sports federations of individual sports will react to the situation, whether they will accept it or not.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who called on Ukraine to stop threatening to boycott the 2024 Summer Games due to the possible participation of Russia and Belarus, has the same opinion on the matter, according to Kejval, but is in a “double fire”. “He is the same person as we are, and he perceives things the same way. He is from neighboring Germany. But he is in a double bind, on the one hand, there is not the same opinion in the whole world, in addition, the United Nations is putting pressure on him, because they are annoyed by the principle of collective guilt, which is inadmissible from the point of view of the Charter of Human Rights,” noted Kejval. According to Bach, a boycott of the Games would violate the Olympic Charter.
He was shocked by the opinions that came out especially from African states. “Their views were colored by the Russian approach to the matter. Russian doctrine,” he pointed out. On behalf of the Czech Olympic Committee, Kejval stated that they support the current sanctions and see no reason to change them now. According to him, however, it is important to prevent the Olympic Games from serving Russian propaganda.
Sportsman Vavřinec Hradilek emphasized that sport and politics cannot be separated. “The fact that sport is not politics sounds beautiful. I wish it were so. But it’s just not like that,” he said, adding that it is necessary to speak publicly about a possible boycott of the Games if Russian and Belarusian athletes participate in them: “In the event that the situation leads to the fact that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to attend the Games, so a boycott is definitely appropriate,” he said, adding that he could not imagine the participation of Russians and Belarusians in Paris.
The International Olympic Committee is considering allowing selected athletes from Russia and Belarus to start in Paris as neutrals. Ukraine objected to this, threatened to boycott the Olympic Games and in a letter called on other members of the Olympic movement to do the same.
Former ice hockey goalkeeper Dominik Hašek also wants to do his best to get the International Olympic Committee to give up on allowing athletes from countries that have been attacking Ukraine for almost a year to start. “Vladimir Putin knows very well that Russian athletes would be the biggest advertisement for the war and its propaganda. It would be a huge boost for the Russians who agree with him, and we must not give them that. It’s not about symbolism, it’s really about supporting the war,” he said Czech radio.
At the same time, he also criticizes the Czech Olympic Committee for not taking a more decisive stand against the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympics. “Those statements don’t seem strong enough to me. There are no symbols here. Russian athletes at the Olympics mean tens, hundreds, thousands and maybe tens of thousands of dead Ukrainians. Unfortunately, many officials cannot put this together. It’s an advertisement for war and it means more dead on the battlefield. Of course, it’s much easier to calculate how many people a tank kills when it fires, but even this has an effect on morale,” ex-goalkeeper Hašek points out.
Hockey legend Jiří Holík considers Hašek’s efforts to exclude Russians and Belarusians from prestigious sports competitions and his sharp criticism of the IOC to be inadequate: “I consider those efforts to be exaggerated from the beginning, even though I understand them in part. As far as the NHL is concerned, it is clear that, and Dominik himself knows this very well – it is one big carousel of money, they do not deal with any great morality, they are concerned with profit. And the IOC may be the same or even have good intentions at heart for their efforts. This is difficult to judge,” said Holík in an interview for ParlamentníListy.cz.
He considers Ukraine’s threat to boycott the Games to be rather unnecessary: ”Certainly from its side, but I also understand that Russian and Belarusian athletes want to play sports, want to play and compete, and the vast majority of them don’t even have a chance to really influence the thinking of Russians or Putin himself.” By not playing, they will neither win nor lose the war,” added Holík.
Top sports officials agreed with Foreign Minister Lipavský that they would coordinate the next steps in the coming weeks and months. “The issue is very political and coordination and mutual dialogue are important. As the Czech Republic, we must do everything to ensure that the Olympic Games cannot serve as war propaganda,” added Lipavský.
The chairman of the National Sports Agency (NSA) Ondřej Šebek informed the online conference of the European Ministers of Sport about the opposition of the Czech Republic, which was expressed by the Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) and the newly elected President Petr Pavel in addition to the sports officials. Any form of participation of Russians and Belarusians in international sports competitions during the duration of the war in Ukraine was rejected by the majority of the participating states.
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