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Russia and IOC clash at the UN before member states pass Olympic Truce for Paris Games

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in an extraordinary BRICS summit to discuss the Palestinian-Israeli conflict via videoconference at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2023. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Russia clashed with the International Olympic Committee on the floor of the United Nations on Tuesday before 118 member states voted to adopt a traditional truce around the 2024 Paris Summer Games.

Two years ago, Russia voted for the previous Olympic Truce resolution then flagrantly breached it by invading Ukraine four days after the 2022 Winter Games closed in Beijing.

Relations between Russia and IOC President Thomas Bach have not recovered since though the Olympic body eased its initially tough stance of exclusion by urging sports bodies to let some athletes compete as neutral individuals with no symbols of national identity.

Such conditions are “completely unacceptable,” Russian diplomat Maria Zabolotskaya said Tuesday speaking immediately before Bach in the Olympic Truce debate at the UN in New York.

“The height of hypocrisy and cynicism the likes of which we have not seen in recent history has been the illegal barring of Russian athletes from international sporting competitions,” said Zabolotskaya, the Russian deputy permanent representative at the UN.

Only Russia and its ally Syria abstained from a vote to adopt the resolution and 118 of the 193 UN member states — including Israel, Ukraine and the United States — backed the text proposed by Olympic host France. There were 173 co-sponsor states two years ago.

The Olympic Truce is a modern revival of the ancient Greek tradition to ensure warring city states allowed safe passage for athletes to the games. It will run from July 19 through Sept. 15, by starting seven days before the Paris Olympics open until seven days after the Paralympics close.

The debate Tuesday came 21 months into the war waged by Russia in Ukraine and after six weeks of conflict in Gaza between Israel and the militant group Hamas.

The Olympics Games “stand as a symbol of tolerance, peace and cooperation among diverse peoples, cultures and nations,” UN General Assembly vice president Mohan Pieris said.

Bach recalled the words two months ago of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres that the world is “becoming unhinged.”

“In this fragile world, this Olympic Truce resolution is more relevant than ever,” the IOC leader said, adding “yes, we can come together, even in times of wars and crises.”

Minutes earlier, Bach was targeted by Zabolotskaya that the IOC had acted against Russian athletes but not those from other countries at war.

“The double standards and the segregation based on nationality upheld by the IOC leadership is a violation of basic human rights,” she said.

Bach has consistently said for more than one year as the Paris Olympics approached that athletes from Russia and its military ally Belarus should not face discrimination based only on their passport.

Russia is “in favor of honest and fair competitions,” Zabolotskaya said, and invited the world to the Friendship Games it plans to host next year as a counter to Olympics.

That, Bach said as the next speaker, “would mean that sport becomes a part of the political tensions and divisions in our world.”

His 13-minute speech finished with a request to “give peace a chance,” invoking the John Lennon lyric Bach also used at the opening ceremony in Beijing 20 days before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Also at the UN Tuesday, the Ukrainian delegate repeated that country’s call for all Russian athletes to be banned from the Paris Olympics, and noted Russia also broke the Olympic Truce in 2008 and 2014.

The Belarus delegate explained its “yes” vote was a symbol of “hope that common sense will soon prevail” in Olympic circles.

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AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games