UK Sport Chair Katherine Grainger expressed deep discomfort at the prospect of Russian athletes competing at Paris 2024.

Grainger won five Olympic medals in five games as a rower

Grainger won five Olympic medals in five games as a rower

By Tom Harle

UK Sport Chairwoman Katherine Grainger expressed deep unease at the prospect of Russian athletes competing in Paris 2024.

Sanctions remain in place, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is actively investigating a qualification and competition route for Russian and Belarusian athletes in Asia.

The UK has played an active role in the international response to the problem, with Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer leading a coordinated response from 35 major nations.

The British Olympic Association has fended off any prospect of an athlete boycott.

But Grainger, who heads the government agency responsible for investing in Olympic and Paralympic sports, was the first major British sports figure to openly question the IOC’s stance.

“The neutral flag never felt particularly neutral because we still see Russian flags in stadiums. I saw that myself.” Grainger told hosts John Cushing and Michael Weadock on the Anything But Footy podcast.

“Russian athletes will often be very proud of Russia and we know that sport in this country is used as a showcase of power, success and pride.

“It feels very uncomfortable that a nation at war can still celebrate victories on a global scale.

“Although a lot of people say politics shouldn’t be in sport, there’s a feeling that in war you can’t pretend that sport is immune to it, and you have to be honest about the role it can or should play .”

IOC President Thomas Bach called on Ukraine team president Vadym Guttsait to drop threats to boycott the games.

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The prospect of an athlete boycott has received the most support in Scandinavia. Diplomatic boycotts have become almost commonplace in recent games.

The German journalist Jens Weinreich gained access a letter from IOC Director James Macleod called on the National Olympic Committees to help correct “erroneous comments” that emerged from Frazer’s meetings.

Bach tells Associates Press this weekend: “With every Ukrainian athlete, we can understand his reactions from a human point of view, we share his suffering.

“That is why we are in full solidarity with them, that is why we support them whether they are in Ukraine or outside.

“We support 3,000 members of the Ukrainian Olympic community to have a strong Ukrainian team in Paris at the 2024 Olympics”.

“Every Ukrainian athlete can be sure that we stand in full solidarity with him and all his comments will be taken very, very seriously.

“But in terms of athlete participation, we have to fulfill our mission of peace, and that’s a unifying mission of bringing people together.”

Sportsbeat 2023

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