The Olympic rings are unveiled on the Trocadero square opposite the Eiffel Tower to celebrate Paris officially being awarded the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris in September. On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he sent French President Emmanuel Macron a letter concerning the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Games under a neutral flag. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 30 (UPI) -- With preparations for the 2024 Paris Olympics underway, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admonished organizers for permitting Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag, stating "the Olympic movement and terrorist states should definitely not intersect."
Zelensky made the comments during his nightly address Sunday after the International Olympic Committee last week announced sanctions imposed on Russia and Belarus over Moscow's war in Ukraine.
While no flag, anthem, colors or any other identifications of the two countries will be allowed to be displayed at any Olympic event, the committee said Russian and Belarusian athletes would be allowed to compete under specific conditions that include doing so as "neutral athletes" who "in no way represent their state or any other organization in their country."
Russian athletes had competed under a neutral flag during the Beijing 2022 Winter Games as it continued to serve a suspension over state-sponsored doping at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.
Zelensky lambasted the IOC over what he described as normalizing Russia's war against Ukraine.
"The International Olympic Committee's attempt to get Russian athletes back to compete and participate in the Olympics is an attempt to tell the world that terror can allegedly be something acceptable," Zelensky said. "As if it is possible to turn a blind eye to what Russia is doing in Kherson, to Kharkiv, to Bakhmut and Avdiivka."
Zelensky said he sent French President Emmanuel Macron a letter on the matter, which was a follow-up to a conversation they had on Tuesday.
"As we prepare for the Paris Olympics, we must be sure that Russia will not be able to use it or any other international sporting event to promote aggression or its state chauvinism," Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian president then compared Russia's involvement in the Games to the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany, calling it a "major Olympic mistake" and one of many made in Europe that "led to horrific tragedies."
"It is even shocking that we have to convince international sports bureaucrats to refuse any support for the terrorist state," he said.
The decision announced by IOC on Wednesday to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under a neutral flag was met by threats from Ukraine to boycott the Paris Games.
Vadym Goutzeit, the country's sports minister, said on Facebook that it was hard to understand the logic behind the IOC's decision and that the Olympic movement "must be aimed at strengthening peace!"
He said the Olympics is a very important moment in an athlete's life but "when our civilians die, when our country is at war, we are forced to think of more important things."
"Boycotting the Olympics can be an extreme event, but we still hope for a diplomatic solution to the issue," he said.
Zelensky had earlier said that "any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood."
The decision was also criticized by international athletes.
Athleten Deutschland, Germany's first independent athletic association, issued a slew of questions directed at the IOC concerning the reintegration of Russia and Belarus into the Olympic fold, including what will happen if athletes boycott competitions against Russian opponents and how encounters between Russian and Ukrainian athletes will be handled.
Global Athlete, an international athlete-led movement for change, with Ukrainian Athletes, derided the IOC's decision as one that tells the world it "endorses Russia's brutal war and invasion of Ukraine."
"By allowing Russian and Belarusian athlete to compete, the IOC is strengthening Russia's propaganda machine, empowering the [Vladimir] Putin regime and undermining peace," it said in a statement.
It also accused the IOC of being under the control of Russia and that it was allowing the Games to be used for "sportswashing" and said that they have seen the IOC before include Russians as "neutral athletes" only for them to be rebranded as "Olympic Athletes of Russia."
"As a servant of Russia, the IOC continues to be on the wrong side of history with this decision that favors politics over principle and war over peace," it said.