Bach under pressure to solve "unsolvable" as Russian NOC exploit Seoul showing –

As Thomas Bach fiddled with his headphones while Hans Natorp read out his statement you could see the frustration bubbling up inside him.
Such was his rage the International Olympic Committee President misheard what the Danish official said, wrongly accusing him of using the term “Russians” in his angry rebuke.
Bach had spent almost an hour at the lectern delivering his speech at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly in Seoul.
Much of that 5,000-word address was focused on the IOC’s response to the war in Ukraine in an effort to unite the Olympic Movement that threatens to fracture.
Bach reiterated the IOC’s stance against Russia and its military ally Belarus while war rages in Ukraine and stressed that it was “not the time” to lift restrictions, meaning Russian and Belarusian athletes remain banned.
While there are supporters of this approach, there are others that believe that it should be those in positions of power that should be the ones getting barred, not the athletes.
Natorp, the head of the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF), believes the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus (NOCRB) and those countries’ sporting leaders should be penalised.
Bach reacted angrily, insisting that the “clear majority” must be respected and told Natorp that DIF should “reflect on its role” as a member of the Olympic Movement.
The German official also used the United Nations General Assembly as an example where all member countries came together for a meeting “regardless of whether their countries are in conflict.”
“The political world is becoming more and more fragmented, hostile and polarised,” said Bach.
“If we do not resist these forces or division, our Olympic Movement will become a part of this antagonistic zero-sum political game.
“We must do everything in our power to not become a victim of these confrontational political forces.”
However, the danger for Bach is that the presence of the Russian and Belarusian delegations in key meetings could do just that.
A total of 11 National Olympic Committees expressed concerns over the participation of the ROC and the NOCRB at the ANOC General Assembly, with the Latvian Olympic Committee and the British Olympic Association (BOA) refusing to attend the event in person.
Natorp also believes the absence of the Ukrainian delegation in Seoul spoke louder than words.
No official reason has been given for their omission, but one can only assume that they did not want to be in the same room as Russian and Belarusian officials.
Flags from both Russia and Belarus had not been placed on the desks prior to the meeting only for them to suddenly appear.
ANOC has yet to confirm how the flags got on the tables, but it appears the two nations put them there in an act of defiance against the IOC’s measures.
There were some suggestions before the ANOC General Assembly that ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov would not present his Culture and Education Commission report on the stage but he clearly could not pass up the opportunity to deliver his Russia-themed video presentation.
He could have chosen to show images of cultural and educational sporting activities from across a number of NOCs but instead chose to select two events that had happened in Russia since the invasion of Ukraine.
The first of those was of the International Forum of Young Olympians that took place in Moscow in June, with athletes coming from Russia, Belarus, Armenia, China and Uzbekistan, according to Pozdnyakov.
The video, which was played to the tune of Bang Bang by Ariana Grande, Jessie J and Nicki Minaj and was filled with ROC branding and young athletes having fun proved too much for some to watch.
Several delegates including the DIF team left the room, with Natorp claiming it was “inappropriate propaganda”.
A second video was also shown which focused on the seventh edition of the Children of Asia in Russian city Vladivostok in July.
ANOC President Robin Mitchell thanked Pozdynakov for his presentation before later revealing that the ROC had gone rogue by not showing the videos before they were issued.
Mitchell also admitted that one of the videos would not have been presented if he had seen it beforehand.
But no questions were asked from the floor immediately after Pozdynakov’s report and Natorp remains the only NOC leader to speak out against the publication of the videos, allowing Russian honorary IOC member Vitaly Smirnov to dismiss the Dane’s walkout as irrelevant.
“It should be noted that there are more than 200 countries in the Olympic Movement and only one decided to leave,” Smirnov told Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti.
As forementioned, the BOA joined the Latvian NOC in boycotting the meeting but perhaps a mass walkout would have delivered a bigger blow to the ROC.
When approaching NOC leaders for comment on Pozdynakov’s presentation, several also shied away from saying anything.
Venezuela Olympic Committee President Maria Soto said she felt the videos should have included athletes from across the world.
“Through a video I don’t think you should show a position,” Soto told insidethegames.
“Sometimes you put a side on some athletes from a specific country because of that but in my personal opinion we shouldn’t take sides.”
Chilean Olympic Committee President Miguel Ángel Mujica said he “respected” Russia’s position in the Olympic Movement and stressed the importance of keeping an “open mind” over the country’s NOC participation.
“We are against the war like a citizen of the world but in the Olympic Movement I respect the position of Russia,” said Mujica.
“I don’t agree with Russia’s attitude [on the war] but when we bring this problem into the Olympic Movement it is absolutely clear that there is a line and you should never try to cross it.
“I have an open mind.
“As President Bach says at the same time with the United Nations, Russia and the United States people try to solve the problem.
“I am not qualified to say what is propaganda.
“I ask is this propaganda or the real situation?
“I don’t know.
“Propaganda is coming from where and from who.”
Pozdnyakov claimed that “opinion is getting louder” on a potential return to international competitions for the country’s athletes following his attendance at the ANOC General Assembly.
NOCRB secretary general Kseniya Sankovich said she had also found “some warming” towards both countries.
It has also since been revealed by Pozdnyakov that he had held meetings with the NOCs of South Africa, South Korea, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia and Peru in Seoul.
Pozdnyakov boasted that the ROC was “expanding the circle of partners and friends” as he revealed that his organisation was “preparing to sign memorandums of cooperation” with the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, the National Olympic and Sports Committee of Mali and the Peruvian Olympic Committee.
Meanwhile, Natorp has taken to social media to highlight the response he has had since his comments at the ANOC General Assembly.
“We have opened an important conversation in the Olympic family,” Natorp wrote on Twitter.
“We have gained a lot of recognition and respect among like-minded NOCs who have not been able to break into the conversations themselves.
“DIF has received a lot of support- both the expected and not least the unexpected.”
Speaking to one delegate at the conclusion of the ANOC General Assembly in Seoul, they feared that fractures were starting to appear in the Olympic Movement as pressure mounts on Bach.
“An unsolvable dilemma” was how Bach described the IOC’s predicament and it is hard to argue against that.
However, if this dilemma is not solved soon those fractures could get bigger, delivering a blow to Bach’s premiership and the Olympic Movement.
Geoff Berkeley is a senior reporter at After joining Midlands-based newspaper publisher Bullivant Media in 2011, Geoff rose through the ranks to become editor of the Malvern Observer and sports editor of several other weekly titles. He then went on to be appointed as the Worcester Warriors correspondent for the Worcester News where he was nominated for Sports Journalist of the Year at the Midlands Media Awards in 2016 and 2017. He also had a spell at Sportsbeat in 2020.
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