IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the EOC General Assembly in Istanbul ©EOC

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has told the European Olympic Committees (EOC) General Assembly here its recommended conditions for the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes as individual neutrals are "non-negotiable".

The IOC initially advised an outright ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes in response to the war in Ukraine, but in March eased this stance by advising International Federations to allow those who do not support the conflict and are not affiliated to the military to compete as individual neutrals.

A ban on Russia and Belarus' flag, anthem and colours would remain in place.

Opposition to this stance is strongest in Europe, with Ukraine and several of its allies arguing there should be no place in sport for Russia or Belarus until the war is over.

However, the majority of International Federations have implemented the IOC's recommendations, although some including athletics and equestrian led by IOC members have maintained their initial stances.

Bach claimed the IOC's position has received growing support, pointing to the G20 New Delhi Leaders' declaration supporting the Paris 2024 Olympics as "a symbol of peace, dialogue amongst nations and inclusivity" and the International Paralympic Committee's decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals at next year's Paralympics.

"Most of the International Federations are applying our recommendations to achieve this goal, to live up to our mission, and numerous World Championships and qualification events have been organised without major incidents because the athletes are competing in this Olympic spirit," he said.

"We see that this approach, which on the one hand is making it very clear that we are condemning this war and sanctioning those who are responsible for the war, and at the same time under these strict conditions we are giving the opportunity for the athletes to compete and to make their contribution to understanding and peace.

"We have seen this is gaining more and more support."

IOC President Thomas Bach insisted
IOC President Thomas Bach insisted "we will not waiver" from its stance on Russian and Belarusian athletes participating as individual neutrals ©Getty Images

Critics have questioned how strictly International Federations are enforcing the requirement for Russian and Belarusian athletes, alleging some have been allowed to compete despite expressing support for the war or having military ties.

Officials in Russia have claimed the conditions are discriminatory, but Bach said such criticism had strengthened his belief in the IOC's position, which it argues represents a "middle ground".

"There have been some comments coming from Russia about these conditions," he said.

"So let me re-confirm what we said from the very beginning - these conditions are non-negotiable, we will not waiver. 

"They have to be strictly applied to give this approach the credibility and support it currently enjoys among the public, the athletes and the international community.

"This support has to be earned day-by-day by strict application."

The IOC has insisted it has not yet taken a decision on the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes at Paris 2024.

It has faced calls from the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine to take action against the Russian Olympic Committee, which this week recognised regional Olympic Councils in four illegally annexed regions.

IOC President Thomas Bach said Paris 2024 would be
IOC President Thomas Bach said Paris 2024 would be "an Olympic Games of a new era" ©Getty Images

Bach also discussed the Paris 2024 Olympics during his address, noting "there are high expectations" with less than 10 months until the start of the Games on July 26.

He suggested the Games could be "a symbol of dialogue, of peace and of human excellence".

The IOC President said Paris 2024 would be "an Olympic Games of a new era", referencing gender parity in the number of athletes participating, changes to the sport programme, goals to cut carbon emissions by half, the use of primarily existing facilities and the biggest Olympic Refugee Team to date expected to take part.

Bach also confirmed a "two-digit number" of countries are interested in the 2036 Olympics and Paralympics, describing it as "a situation which we never had."

"Our Olympic movement has a bright future, but we can only make this future bright if we are not only talking about the Olympic motto, if we are living the Olympic motto," Bach concluded.

"I invite you to live this new Olympic motto, to get faster in the fast-changing world, to aim higher, and to get stronger, but this we can only achieve if we are standing together in solidarity."

During his visit to Istanbul, Bach met with Turkey's Minister of Youth and Sports Osman Aşkın Bak.

Bak thanked the IOC President for his support in helping to rebuild infrastructure destroyed in Turkey after the devastating earthquake in the south of the country and neighbouring Syria in February.

The meeting followed Istanbul's Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu expressing the city's Olympic and Paralympic Games ambitions in front of Bach at a gala dinner last night, and Bak said the two parties "will continue and strengthen our collaborations that will add value to sports culture both in the world and in our country".

From Istanbul, Bach is due to travel to the Indian city of Mumbai for the delayed IOC Session running from October 15 to 17, with an Executive Board meeting scheduled for Thursday (October 12) to Saturday (October 14).