ANOCA supports return of Russians to Olympics in 2024
Russians and Belarusians are given a green light to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games under a neutral flag.
The Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) has decided to support the participation of Russians and Belarusians in the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games under a neutral flag.
"Members unanimously decided to support the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in all international competitions," ANOCA said in a statement after a meeting on Friday for its executive committee in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott.
Ukraine and its Western donors called for the exclusion of Russians and Belarusians from the games over the conflict in Ukraine, but the International Olympic Committee said in January that no athlete should be prevented from playing just because of their passport. The Olympic Council of Asia supported that decision.
The IOC said that a pathway for the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics should be "further explored", ignoring calls from Ukraine to ban them.
The African organization aligned with the position of the IOC and its president Thomas Bach, ANOCA chief Mustapha Berraf added in his statement.
"ANOCA reaffirms its stance that politics cannot bring pressure to bear on sport and strip it of all its core values, which are rooted in peace, unity, and solidarity," the statement said, adding athletes should not "be made to pay the heavy price of any conflict whatsoever and wherever it may be."
The African sports governing body said that this decision would go down in history as an effort to tear down the barriers existing between politics and sport.
In February, the IOC urged sports federations and organizers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events in response to Russia's special military operation in Ukraine.
The IOC also withdrew the Olympic Order, its highest award, from all high-ranking Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko, and Kremlin Deputy Head Chief of Staff Dmitry Kozak.
It is noteworthy that Russia has also been stripped of hosting the UEFA Champions League final in St. Petersberg.
In January, the British government strongly criticized the moves to reintegrate Russian athletes for next year's Paris Olympics.
UK's Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan described the International Olympic Committee's plans to provide a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to play under a neutral flag as "a world away from the reality of war being felt by the Ukrainian people."
In the same month, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said during a call he had stressed to his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that Russian athletes "should have no place" at the Paris Games.