10th December 2023 – (Paris) Ukraine’s Sports Minister, Matviy Bidnyi, stated on Saturday that Ukraine must carefully consider whether participating in the upcoming Paris Olympics aligns with the nation’s interests. However, Bidnyi emphasized that Ukraine’s participation is contingent upon the International Olympic Committee (IOC) altering its “non-constructive position.” His remarks came in response to the IOC’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals, without displaying their national flags, emblems, or anthems.
During a national television appearance, Bidnyi highlighted the importance of assessing the potential benefits and repercussions of Ukraine’s participation in the Olympics, particularly in light of the ongoing 21-month-long conflict with Russia. He stressed the need for a measured and balanced decision-making process, taking into account public sentiment and the country’s pursuit of victory.
Initially, Russian and Belarusian athletes faced international bans following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, with Belarus serving as a staging ground for the aggression. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned the IOC’s recent decision as “shameful,” while Russia’s Sports Minister, Oleg Matytsin, criticized the IOC’s conditions for Russian athletes’ participation as “discriminatory.”
Bidnyi expressed that Ukraine could consider participating in the Olympics if it would help promote the nation’s position on the global stage. However, he emphasized that Ukraine’s participation would become impossible if the IOC continued to maintain its “non-constructive position” and allow individuals associated with the Russian regime to compete.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has been actively seeking international support to ban all Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games for several months. However, he has not yet addressed whether Ukrainian athletes would participate alongside them as neutrals.