Dr J. Simon Rofe interview features in Al Jazeera story about Ukrainian backlash to recent IOC recommendation

An interview with Dr J. Simon Rofe has been included in Al Jazeera's report on the IOC's intention to reconsider the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from competitions.

Associate Professor at POLIS and expert in sports diplomacy Dr J. Simon Rofe has given an interview for Al Jazeera on “sport’s role as a mediator” in relation to international tensions and conflict. He explains that, 

Sport is not the silver bullet solution to solve the world’s ills, but it can provide both moments for conversation that wouldn’t happen otherwise, and at the same time provide a reason for people to connect, to communicate, to share a moment of perhaps wonder at sporting achievement.

The interview came just before the International Olympic Committee’s recent announcement that it is considering allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to the 2024 Olympic Games. Al Jazeera have included Dr Rofe’s interview as part of their coverage of the IOC’s current position on Russian and Belarusian athletes, and the Ukrainian response to it. 

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, multiple international sporting bodies have banned Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams from participating in major competitions. 

On 28 February 2022, the IOC Executive Board released their official statement recommending the suspension of participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in both Winter and Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. However, almost a year later, on 25 January 2023 the IOC Executive Board released an update of their recommendation which proposed to allow Russian and Belarussian Athletes to return to its competitions as “neutral athletes”. 

Al Jazeera has since reported that Ukraine may boycott the 2024 Olympic Games, which are to be hosted in Paris between 26 July – 11 August 2024, should Russian and Belarusian athletes be allowed to compete while Russia continues its war on Ukraine. 

President Volodymyr Zelensky has argued that permitting Russia to compete at the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris would tell the world “that terror is somehow acceptable”, BBC News has reported

Professor Rofe has said that the debate surrounding the IOC’s updated recommendation, especially Ukraine’s response, “demonstrates the capacity for sport to shape diplomatic dialogues during times of acute crisis.”

He continues to say that, 

For Zelensky to take the opportunity to share these thoughts, as the anniversary of the Russian invasion approaches, demonstrates that discourse on Sports Diplomacy will continue to run, bringing into play a raft of issues for organisers of Paris 24 and other sporting mega events at the nexus of #sportsdiplomacy.