Russian Deputy Sports Minister Alexei Morozov has claimed that his country’s athletes have been invited to compete in sports competitions in Africa, in addition to the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
Athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus have been largely frozen out of international sport since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
The Russian Olympic Committee is a member of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), which has welcomed the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) recent move to “explore a pathway” for the return of athletes from Russia and Belarus under “strict conditions” of neutrality.
However, travel between Russia and most of Europe remains difficult due to sanctions imposed in response to the war, and it has already been confirmed that Russia and Belarus will not compete at the Kraków-Małopolska 2023 European Games because it is “impossible under the current circumstances”.
European Sports Ministers are expected to gather in Britain on Friday (February 10) to discuss the IOC’s move and its implications for Paris 2024.
The OCA has proposed Russian and Belarusian athletes compete at its qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Olympics, which has been welcomed by the IOC.
OCA Acting President Randhir Singh has insisted Asian athletes would not miss out on quota places under the plans, although there remain issues to be ironed out, with World Archery expressing its opposition to Russia and Belarus qualifying in Asia.
No National Federations in Russia or Belarus have officially switched continental body from Europe to Asia.Morozov has revealed there has been an additional offer for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in African competitions.
“The Association of National Olympic Committees of Asia is waiting for us in March,” Morozov said, as reported by Russia’s official state news agency TASS.
“There is a similar statement from African countries that are unanimously proposing to compete in their competitions.
“We are waiting for a decision from the International Olympic Committee [and] International Federations what will be the admission criteria.”
Morozov said that the Ministry of Sports’ position is “an athlete should compete with the strongest” and “we will make every effort to do this”.
insidethegames has asked the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA) for a comment on Morozov’s remarks.
ANOCA has joined the EOC, OCA, Panam Sports and Association of National Olympic Committees in expressing its support for the IOC’s stance on Russia and Belarus.
ANOCA President and IOC member Mustapha Berraf has said the ANOCA Executive Committee “unanimously decided to support the participation of athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport in all sports events under the banner of neutrality” and “fully supports the resolutions of the IOC Executive Board.”
“ANOCA further confirms the availability of its athletes and all its sports facilities,” the Algerian official added.