The World Games 2022 Birmingham Organizing Committee on Monday announced that it had placed a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in July’s upcoming events.
The move came on the heels of the International Olympic Committee’s recommendation to bar the two nations from competition due to Russia’s war it has waged against Ukraine. Reports indicate that Belarus could soon join Russia’s efforts in the war.
World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers on Tuesday held a press conference during which he said the committee’s move was to show its solidarity with the people of Ukraine.
“The decision to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes is certainly nothing that we take joy in,” said Sellers. “These are innocent athletes that have worked very hard for this moment. But so did the Ukrainian athletes, many of whom are going to have to stay behind to fight for their family and their own lives and in this moment the International Olympic Committee felt like the appropriate thing to do was to ban the Russian and Belarusian athletes to send a message to this tyrant that that behavior is unacceptable. We absolutely endorsed that and supported it with a ban of the Russian and Belarusian athletes for the World Games 2022 as well.”
When asked about the potential impact the ban would have on attendance, Sellers said it was not an issue that the committee considered due to the need to show its support for the embattled Eastern European country.
“You know, we didn’t make the decision based on attendance issues,” he added. “We made the decision because we believed it was the right thing to do in this moment to show solidarity for the rest of the world, for peace. So we really didn’t think through or try to make it based on what we thought it would do.”
Sellers went on to express the committee’s hope that the war would come to an end prior to the competitions, and that Ukrainian athletes would be able to partake in the games.
“What our hope is is that this conflict, this war is over quickly and innocent lives are saved and the Ukrainian athletes can come here and compete in these games, and Birmingham can be seen as an epicenter to promote peace,” said Sellers.
Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL