Olympia 2024: IOC opens doors to Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in Paris
Athletes could not compete under the Russian flag
Russian and Belarusian athletes could compete as neutral participants at the 2024 Olympics after the International Olympic Committee announced it would study “a way” for their participation.
The IOC urged federations to ban athletes from countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian athletes should have “no place” at the Paris Games.
But the IOC’s statement on Wednesday could clear the way for her return.
It stated that “no athlete should be prevented from competing solely because of his passport”.
The move was criticized in a joint statement by Athletes for Ukraine and the athletes’ association Global Athlete.
The decision shows that the IOC “supports Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine”.
“The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions, particularly the Paris 2024 Olympics, will result in the Russian state once again using athletes to bolster the war effort and learn from atrocities in Ukraine at one of the largest multisport Stages to distract the world,” the statement added.
The IOC said that participation in competitions, which would also include qualifying events, would require athletes to compete as neutrals “and in no way represent their state or any other organization in their country”.
The athletes “may not have acted against the IOC’s peace mission by actively supporting the war in Ukraine”.
President Thomas Bach said in December the IOC faces a “major dilemma” to ensure athletes do not suffer sporting sanctions.
Some sports federations have ignored the IOC recommendation and allowed individual athletes to compete as neutrals, but others have complied.
Two Belarusian tennis players, Victoria Azarenka and Aryna Sabalenka, could face each other in the Australian Open singles final this weekend. Both compete as neutrals.
The Lawn Tennis Association has been fined £820,000 for banning Russian and Belarusian players from last summer’s lawn events, including Wimbledon.
The British government says Belarus supported and encouraged the invasion of Russia.