IOC President Thomas Bach with PM Narendra Modi, host for the 2023 G20 Summit, in Bali on Tuesday (Image courtesy: IOC/Greg Martin)
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali on Tuesday as he once again insisted on bringing the whole world together in peaceful competition, “without any discrimination whatsoever”.
India, which will assume the Presidency of the G20 for one year starting December 1, will be hosting the next Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi in September 2023. PM Modi will thus preside over the premier forum for international economic cooperation representing around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the worldwide trade, and about two-thirds of the world population.
Invited by the Indonesian President Joko Widodo to address the Leaders’ Lunch on the first day of the G20 Summit, Bach said that, in order to live up to its unifying mission, the IOC must remain politically neutral as holding a competition between athletes “from only like-minded states is not a credible symbol of peace”.
Addressing the world leaders at the same venue, Gianni Infantino, President of FIFA – the international governing body of football – made a direct plea for a ceasefire in Ukraine during the FIFA World Cup which kicks off in Qatar this Sunday without the participation of Russia, which hosted the last World Cup in 2018.
Most of the global sports federations have barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in international events after the IOC recommendations following the start of the conflict in Ukraine in February, earlier this year.
However, with just over 600 days until Paris 2024 Olympic Games, Bach noted on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine has affected the Olympic Movement in a unique way in an increasingly polarised world.
“If sport becomes -in this way- just another tool to achieve political goals, international sport will fall apart. Olympic sport needs the participation of all athletes who accept the rules, even and especially if their countries are in confrontation or at war,” said the Olympic chief.
The IOC’s role in this “age of division”, he said, is clear – to unite the world, and not to deepen divisions.
“To live up to our unifying mission, the IOC must be politically neutral. To allow future Olympic hosts to welcome the best athletes of the entire world, regardless of political conflicts, I appeal to you, the world leaders, to support this political neutrality,” he told the gathering of global leaders.
Addressing the intergovernmental forum, which comprises of 19 countries and the European Union, the FIFA President called football “a force for good”, a sport which unites the world, particularly the FIFA World Cup which will be watched by five billion people worldwide.
Infantino made a direct plea to the leaders gathered in Indonesia to call for a ceasefire during 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and to begin a dialogue as a first step to bring the conflict between Russia and Ukraine to an end.
With Russia having hosted the last World Cup and Ukraine bidding to host it in 2030, the FIFA President’s speech recognised the current uncertainty in the world and identified countries involved in the current conflict.
“So, my plea, to all of you, is to think on a temporary ceasefire, for one month, for the duration of the FIFA World Cup, or at least the implementation of humanitarian corridors, or anything that could lead to the resumption of dialogue as a first step to peace. You are the world leaders; you have the ability to influence the course of history,” said Infantino.
With FIFA launching the ‘Football Unites the World’ campaign’ on Monday – which shows a host of international stars illustrating football’s unrivalled ability to bring people together – Infantino hoped that the current World Cup, starting in five days, can really be a “positive trigger”.