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Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) President Christopher Samuda said the country will not be boycotting the games, despite international backlash over Russian and Belarusian athletes being allowed to compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics and the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan.
“We do not support the boycott for these reasons: One: Athletes do not make war. Two: The Olympic and Paralympic charter both enshrine the rights of athletes who transition to the Olympic and Paralympic stage and we have to give our athletes the opportunity,” Samuda told The Gleaner. “Our athletes are in a job. They have invested four years of their lives sacrificially for the county and for any decision that would rob them of that opportunity would have to be taken very carefully.”
Last month, ministers from 35 countries, including the United States, urged that Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned following an online call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. During the call, Zelenskiy stated that 228 Ukrainian athletes and coaches died due to attacks from Russia.
“If there’s an Olympics sport with killings and missile strikes, you know which national team would take the first place,” he informed the ministers, per Reuters. “Terror and Olympism are two opposites, they cannot be combined.”
Samuda says that despite Jamaica’s stance, he appreciates that there are differing opinions.
“It is a position that we express in Jamaica, it is a position that we would recommend as well. But there will be nuances of course and we recognize that. And therefore you are the only arbiter of your decision. And we respect any decision that may be different from that which we are taking,” Samuda said. “But at the end of the day, we have to look at sport as a unifying influence and we have to come around the table more often than we do now in order to settle our differences.”
Ukrainian athletes accused IOC President Thomas Bach of being “on the wrong side of history” after he requested they drop the boycott threats.
“We have to accomplish our peace mission and that is a unifying mission of bringing people together,” responded Bach.