UN defense of athletes alleging abuse and the 450 dead Ukrainian athletes
Yeray Vergara
July 2, 2024

The Human Rights Council in Geneva hosted a meeting between UN President Volker Türk and Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) where the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights insisted that athletes should be able to denounce human rights violations, such as racism and discrimination, without fear of reprisals. Türk regretted that the Paris Olympics “are taking place in a context of war.”

During Türk and Bach’s debate, Russia reacted to its exclusion from Paris and accused the IOC of “dirty tactics” and “collective punishment” of its athletes to which Türk replied that “sport, like human rights promotes fairness, respect and equal opportunities.” The leader stressed that more and more athletes are daring to denounce injustice, “this requires enormous courage and must be respected” and commented that “it is necessary to support and protect these athletes”.

Thomas Bach said that the IOC could not solve “human rights issues that generations of politicians have failed to resolve” and commented that “sport is the low-cost, high-impact tool for all countries to build inclusive communities in times of division, with wars and conflicts on the rise”.

Russia, for its part, insisted on denouncing “discrimination”, but it should be remembered that they violated the Olympic truce and the Olympic Charter when they invaded Ukraine in February 2022, a week after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games.


“The IOC leadership and Western countries do not shy away from the dirtiest tactics: bribes, threats and blackmail in their efforts to eliminate Russian and Belarusian sport,” the Russian representative to the Human Rights Council said. The Ukrainian representative replied, “Russia has killed more than 450 Ukrainian athletes, including world champions,” while the Russian army has “destroyed more than 500 sports facilities” in Ukraine.

From Ukraine to Gaza. The Palestinian delegation also spoke about the ongoing conflict in Gaza and accused Israel of violating the Olympic Charter. “We call on the IOC to expel Israeli apartheid from the Paris Olympics,” and went on to say that “We call on all member states to refuse to participate in any event where Israeli apartheid is present,” it concluded.

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