FIG: Russia and Belarus gymnasts should be permitted to compete

Morinari Watanabe has said that gymnasts from Belarus and Russia who are not implicated in the conflict in Ukraine should be permitted to compete.

Rhythmic Gymnastics (Credits- Instagram/FIG)
By Abhiruchi Rout | Apr 7, 2023 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Morinari Watanabe, the president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), has said that gymnasts from Belarus and Russia who are not implicated in the conflict in Ukraine should be permitted to compete. Both countries were excluded from international competitions last year as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since then, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has advocated for neutral-status competition for Russian and Belarusian athletes. Recently, Watanabe visited Ukraine to attend the death of rhythmic gymnastics instructor Albina Deriugina. While there, he met with Vadim Guttsait, the country’s minister of sports, and Andriy Yermak, the head of the president’s office.

The FIG Executive Committee will meet on May 12 and May 13 to examine the IOC’s suggestions for a phased reintroduction to international competition for Russian and Belarussian competitors. The initial ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes was enacted in March 2022 as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February of last year, which Moscow refers to as a special military operation. The IOC released the recommendations this month. All gymnastics disciplines are governed by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).

What did Morinari Watanabe say regarding the participation of Russia and Belarus?

Morinari Watanabe emphasized that sport is distinct from politics while expressing his support for Ukraine’s political stance.  “Sport must seek peace even when governments and soldiers are at war,” he stated in a FIG statement. He continued by saying that while he acknowledged and appreciated President Zelenskiy’s viewpoint. However, he spoke up for the right of Russian and Belarusian gymnasts who weren’t participating in the war to compete. Watanabe said that he was protecting all gymnasts in the world like family.

What are Russia, Ukraine, and the IOC’s decisions?

In December, Volodymyr Zelenskyy opposed the idea of Russian athletes taking part in the 2024 Paris Olympics under a neutral banner, stating that “all their flags are stained in blood.” In response, Ukraine has announced that its athletes will not participate in qualifying events for the 2024 Games if they have to compete against Russians. The IOC has criticized Ukraine’s decision.

About the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG)

The International Gymnastics Federation’s headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland, and it was established in Liège, Belgium, in 1881, making it the oldest still-active international sports organization in existence. Initially known as the European Federation of Gymnastics, it had three member countries: Belgium, France, and the Netherlands. In 1921, the non-European countries were accepted and the current name was adopted.