KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The president of the International Gymnastics Federation has visited Ukraine for talks with senior political figures amid a standoff over Russian athletes’ eligibility for Olympic qualifying events.
FIG president Morinari Watanabe met with the head of Ukraine’s presidential office, Andriy Yermak, and sports minister Vadym Guttsait, according to an account of the meeting published on the presidential website late Saturday. The statement said Watanabe was urged not to support Russian participation at the Paris Olympics next year.
The visit came four days after the International Olympic Committee recommended that international sports governing bodies like the FIG readmit athletes from Russia and Belarus as neutrals without national symbols as qualifying for the Paris Olympics ramps up. They would remain excluded from team sports and athletes who are members of the Russian military would be barred, under IOC recommendations. The IOC says it hasn’t made a final decision about the Olympics.
The Ukrainian government wanted a full exclusion and has sought to block its own athletes from competing in events that decide to admit Russians or Belarusians, sparking criticism from the IOC.
“If implemented, such a decision would only hurt the Ukrainian athlete community, and in no way impact the war that the world wants to stop, and that the IOC has so vehemently condemned,” the IOC said Saturday. “The IOC has always maintained that it is not up to governments to decide which athletes can participate in which international competitions.”
Ukraine is lobbying international sports federations such as Watanabe’s FIG, which have the final say on whether to implement the IOC’s recommendations for their own events. The FIG has excluded Russian and Belarusian gymnasts from competitions since March 2022 and extended that measure “until further notice” last month.
Watanabe is an IOC member but doesn’t sit on the executive board which agreed the policy on Russia and Belarus. The FIG did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Watanabe’s visit to Ukraine.
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