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Portugal’s olympic committee backs Russia, Belarus return in 2024 games

“Sport should be a factor of pacification and rapprochement between quarelling parties”

 COP, Portugal’s olympic committee, is backing orientation taken by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to reinstate Russian and Belarusian athletes in international competitions.

Committee president José Manuel Constantino has told Lusa that the position of the IOC, in saying it wants to “explore ways to do so”, is “the most reasonable one.

Terms, conditions and ways of doing it are a matter that has to be discussed, evaluated, considered”, he said.

At a time when attendance to the Paris2024 Olympic Games is being debated, the COP president is defending that “sport should give a message so that parties get along, it should not give support to one party against another”.

“Sport should be a factor of pacification and rapprochement between quarrelling parties. Everything that has been done – not in the sense of finding balanced and peaceful solutions, but of arming one of the parties against the other – I don’t think it would work. And we can see what is happening…”, he added (on a day when international headlines discuss the perceived escalation in Russia’s attacks on Ukraine since the West’s decision to send in super-charged tanks).

Constantino’s argument is that “it is part of the history” of sport to give signals that lead to “rapprochement and pacification of relations of parties in conflict”, regardless of whether the countries and governments “understand this or not”.

The fact that Ukraine is considering boycotting Paris 2024 in case of Russian and Belarusian reinstatement – and that several countries have already expressed their opposition to the IOC’s opening orientation, including the United Kingdom and Denmark, which criticise IOC president Thomas Bach’s change of heart – is seen by Portugal’s COP leader as ‘normal’, “since in the past there have been similar situations” at what is the world’s largest sporting event.

Constantino added that this issue has not been broached between COP and the Portuguese government. The body is “completely autonomous and independent” with its course “aligned” by the sports organisations, not politics, he insisted.

But this may not be the case elsewhere: “Developments are still difficult to define, to predict, namely what will be the reaction of many countries that, perhaps, will try to condition the positioning of their national Olympic committees,” he said.

In Lusa’s words, José Manuel Constantino advocates it is better “to wait for new developments” regarding signals from the IOC. At this moment “it is premature to close any scenario, as all are open”.

In Paris, mayoress Anne Hidalgo “is in line with the IOC”, Lusa adds, while president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has demanded his French counterpart ban the presence of athletes from countries complicit in the military invasion of his country.

“The Paris2024 organising committee has no decision-making power (in this matter)”, Lusa concludes its text: sole authority lying with “international federations”.

Source material: Lusa