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The International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Truce

Updated: Jul 20, 2022

Amidst Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian athletes are urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to sanction the Olympic committees for Russia and Belarus. Would the IOC sanction the respective country committees for breach of the Olympic Truce?

What is the Olympic Truce?

The Olympic Truce dates back to the ninth century when the kings of the Greek city-states Elis, Pisa, and Sparta agreed to allow safe participation in the Olympic Games for individuals from their respective city-states. Now, the Olympic Truce continues to provide for safe passage for individuals and aims “to harness the power of sport to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation more broadly.”

Since 1993, one year before each Olympic Games, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly has adopted a resolution supporting the Olympic Truce. Each resolution is entitled “[b]uilding a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal.” UN Member States show their support by co-sponsoring the bill. 173 of the 193 member states co-sponsored the resolution for the 2022 Beijing Olympics, including Russia.

The Olympic Truce is in effect beginning seven days before the start of the Olympic Games and ends seven days after the conclusion of the Paralympic Games, which concludes on March 13.

What Will the IOC Do?

Because Russia, with support from Belarus, has invaded Ukraine, the countries have broken the Olympic Truce. Notably, this is not the first time Russia has broken the Olympic Truce. Russia also broke the truce in 2008 and 2014, when Russia invaded South Ossetia and Crimea, respectively. However, Russia maintains that they did not break the truce because they were domestic disputes, which is the same position Russia will likely maintain again.

Due to the IOC’s insistence on political neutrality, the IOC likely will not sanction the committees from Russia and Belarus.

Despite strongly condemning their actions, even going so far as urging sports bodies to cancel or move events planned for Russia and Belarus and to stop using their flags and anthems, the IOC has not sanctioned other countries, including Russia, for prior breaches of the Olympic Truce during prior Olympic and Paralympic Games and likely will not begin now.

However, the IOC could continue the sanctions against Russia for figure skater Kamila Valieva’s positive test for a banned substance.

What Are Others Doing?

Even without sanctions from the IOC, the sports world is speaking out against Russia’s actions:

  • Formula One announced it is canceling the September Russian Grand Prix

  • UEFA announced that the upcoming Champions League Final will not be held in St. Petersburg

  • The International Ski Federation announced that the Federation will not hold any upcoming events in Russia

  • FIFA announced that Russia cannot use their flag and anthem for World Cup qualifying events

  • FIFA declined to go as far as expelling Russia from the World Cup, even though it would not be the first time a country was banned from international competition, as Yugoslavia was banned in 1992 due to the Balkan Wars.

In addition, teams throughout the world are refusing to participate in competitions against Russia. More withdrawals from teams and sanctions from sports bodies are likely to continue well into the future.

Meanwhile, the world will wait and see if the IOC will sanction the Olympic Committees from Russia and Belarus for violating the Olympic Truce.

Landis Barber is an attorney at Safran Law Offices in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can connect with him via LinkedIn or via his blog

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