Belarusian Minister of Sport and Tourism Sergey Kovalchuk believes sport has "lost its appeal and…its independence" due to "unscrupulous politicians" ©MINEPS VII

Belarusian Minister of Sport and Tourism Sergey Kovalchuk has claimed that the Olympic Movement is being "pulled apart" and spoke of the country’s desire to compete with "friendly countries" outside of Europe.

Kovalchuk slammed restrictions against athletes from his country in response to the war in Ukraine, claiming that the Olympic Charter is being "trampled underfoot" and that sport has "lost its appeal and…its independence" due to "unscrupulous politicians".

His comments came in a scathing three-minute speech at the seventh edition of the International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS VII) here.

Belarus, which is a military ally of Russia, has been hit with sanctions by many sporting organisations due to its involvement in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, with its flag, symbols and anthem largely banned from international competition.

Several International Federations have also continued to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus despite recommendations from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow them to compete as neutrals provided they do not support the war and are not affiliated with the military.

Kovalchuk told Sports Ministers that the MINEPS VII was taking place in "difficult times for international relations".

"Unfortunately, sport has become a tool in the hands of unscrupulous politicians to almost mean that sports has lost its appeal and lost its independence," said Kovalchuk.

Belarusian Minister of Sport and Tourism Sergey Kovalchuk has slammed the International Paralympic Committee's
Belarusian Minister of Sport and Tourism Sergey Kovalchuk has slammed the International Paralympic Committee's "despicable" decision to ban Para athletes ©Getty Images

"The Olympic Charter has been trampled underfoot, the Olympic Movement is being pulled apart and rights of athletes, coaches and all those who love and support sports are being grossly violated and this is particularly true about Russian and Belarusian sports men."

Kovalchuk claimed that the "most despicable example of this discrimination" is the banning of Belarusian Para athletes as the suspension of the country’s National Paralympic Committee.

"Many Governments have been and still take part in armed conflicts and are supplying arms left, right and centre and sending mercenaries but this has not led to any sanctions in the international Olympic Movement," added the Belarusian official.

"We are particularly grateful for the federations and organisation which firmly stick to the protections of the basic principles of sport.

"Dear colleague, as to protect the true nature of the Olympic Movement, we must adopt concrete measures and protect sport from the influence and the pressures of irresponsible politicians and remove all barriers and restrictions that prevent the fully-fledged involvement of all our athletes from any country to attend international competition including the Olympic Games."

Kovalchuk has backed plans for the creation of the inaugural BRICS Games, scheduled to be held in June next year - just one month before the start of the Olympic Games in Paris - as well as events including members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) outside of the Olympic Movement.

BRICS is a political alliance featuring Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

SCO is also an intergovernmental organisation comprising of Russia, China, India and Pakistan as well as the Central Asian former Soviet states of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has stressed that the BRICS Games are
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has stressed that the BRICS Games are "no substitute" to the Olympics ©MINEPS VII

"Sport must remain outside of politics and be a venue to unite people, not an instrument of global politics," said Kovalchuk.

"The rivalry between countries should only express itself on the playing field.

"The illegal sanctions of various international sports organisations has forced us to take a different look in participating in a number of sports events.

"We are redirecting ourselves to friendly countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and others.

"Today, we are no longer only active on the European stage but we ae taking a more active part in competition, like the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the BRICS."

Rebel events competing with the Olympic Games is a nightmare scenario for the IOC, especially if global superpowers like Russia and China are involved.

Discussions over hosting events outside of the Olympic Movement were regularly on the agenda in Russia when the country’s athletes were largely frozen out of international sport in response to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February last year.

IOC President Thomas Bach has expressed fears that international sport will turn into the "Games of Political Bloc A" and the "Games of Political Bloc B" as he slammed Russia for "shamelessly trying to put together fully politicised sport competition".

Yesterday, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin insisted that the BRICS Games were "no substitute" to the Olympics and said his country planned to compete at Paris 2024.