International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) President Morinari Watanabe opened the 84th FIG Congress in Istanbul, Turkey, defending the presence of Russian and Belarusian officials.
Federations from different European countries – Ukraine, Estonia, Italy, Netherlands, Norway and Poland – boycotted the congress due to the presence of officials.
Watanabe said he respects the position of the absentees, but insisted the FIG must “follow the decisions and recommendations of the IOC in its activities as mentioned in the Olympic Charter,” as reported by Inside the Games.
“The FIG is [an] international sports organization, it must be neutral and must contribute to peace through Olympism”, he said.
Russia has been banned from a number of sporting events and federations around the world, including gymnastics, since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended doing so after the start of the conflict with Ukraine .
Watanabe referred to it, but pointed out that the “The party that started this war is not the Russian people, the Russian athletes, the Russian Olympic Committee or the Russian IOC members.”
“The intention is not to eliminate athletes from Russia and Belarus” he said, adding that “Unnecessary punishments create new hatred.”
“I want to avoid more hatred that might remain after the war. I think we should avoid leaving hatred in the future for the gymnastics family.
Watanabe pointed out that the Russian and Belarusian delegations could also attend a general meeting of the Association of National Olympic Committees in Seoul last month.
“Based on these actions and advice from the IOC, the FIG Executive Committee has made four decisions,” said Watanabe.
“The first being that the FIG and the gymnastics family will continue to support the Ukrainian gymnastics family. The second is that the FIG does not allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate in FIG events.
“The third is that the FIG will allow FIG officials from Russia and Belarus elected by the FIG Congress to attend the events. The fourth is that the FIG should monitor whether athletes or officials make statements or actions in favor of this war and should impose severe sanctions on those who do.
Watanabe pointed out that actions are “in accordance with the guidelines and recommendations of the IOC.”
“From this point of view, the FIG allows its member federations from Russia and Belarus to participate in the Congress. The reason is that we have a duty to share our opinions with Russia and Belarus.
“Furthermore, as an international organization, we have a duty to hear their opinions. If we cut the communication pipeline, we cannot contribute to peace,” said Watanabe.