Thomas Bach doesn't even consider canceling Paris 2024 due to the growing conflicts © Getty Images

The Olympics have been cancelled three times in the past because of war —in 1916, 1940 and 1944—, but International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Monday that the 2024 Olympics in Paris will not be called off because of conflicts between Russia and Ukraine on one hand and Israel against Palestine on the other hand. 

"We have a very strong geopolitical tension. To say we will sacrifice the Games would be the completely wrong approach," Bach said at a German forum.

"We have had many wars between governments and countries, but the athletes have always taken part in the Games. That is in line with the Olympic mission," he continued.

"I don’t know if we are going to have a world war. Betraying the basic idea of sport is not possible with the International Olympic Committee. According to the United Nations definition, there are currently 28 wars in the world. Our mission is a humanitarian mission for athletes and sports. We try to take this into account. People also need something to unite them," he emphasized.

Bach has previously said that athletes should not be punished for the actions of their government, but he conceded that it was "a dilemma" whether to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals in Paris.

Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, at the last Olympic Games. © Getty Images
Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, at the last Olympic Games. © Getty Images

In September, World Aquatics approved their participation as neutrals, and some Belarusian swimmers competed at the last stop of the World Cup series in Budapest, Hungary.

No Russian swimmer has yet returned to the international stage, but perhaps there will be a chance at the 2024 World Championships in Doha, Qatar, in February.

World Aquatics is allowing one Russian and one Belarusian athlete to take part in international competitions as neutral athletes (without relays).

In order to be admitted, the athletes must fulfill a number of strict criteria. These include not supporting the war in Ukraine and not having a contract with the Russian or Belarusian military.

"Sport cannot and must not be apolitical, but it must be politically neutral. If it takes on the role of referee in every conflict, that is the end of international sport," explained the the president of IOC.

Bach also addressed the issue of extending his 12-year term of presidence beyond 2025 and emphasized that it wasn't his idea.

Thomas Bach and Gabriel Boric at the Pan American Games 2023. © Getty Images
Thomas Bach and Gabriel Boric at the Pan American Games 2023. © Getty Images

"It is typical that it is assumed that this was staged. I find it unacceptable that people make such judgments with no knowledge," said the 69-year-old former German Olympic fencer.

"One argument is that in Tokyo [2021] a certain campaign has already been started by some members [for 2025]. That the majority of members find this disruptive. They don’t want all important decisions to be influenced by candidacies. Others say that we are living in such turbulent times that it is difficult to change teams now. You need a certain continuity here in order to survive. That is the basis on which we advise," he assured.

"I am also only human. I was pleased with the answers that came from different continents. If members make a proposal to change the statutes, then they must do so. Respect that you are dealing with these people," Bach concluded.