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Thu, January 26, 2023

IOC provides opportunity for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at Paris 2024 Olympics

IOC provides opportunity for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at Paris 2024 Olympics

The IOC have said that Russian and Belarusian athletes may be able to compete at the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutrals. 

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has this week said that Russian athletes should have no place at the Games but an IOC statement released on Wednesday said they must “Respect the rights of all athletes to be treated without any discrimination, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. Governments must not decide which athletes can participate in which competition and which athletes cannot. No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport.”

The executive board also agreed on Wednesday that no international sports events could be held in Russia or Belarus while government or state officials from the two countries would not be invited to any sports events or meetings. Solidarity was also expressed with Ukrainian athletes by the IOC executive board, who insisted it was unwavering in its commitment for the nation to have a “strong team” at both the Paris Games and Winter Olympics in 2026 despite its ongoing efforts with the war.

The statement has been heavily criticised by Athletes for Ukraine and Global Athlete who released a joint statement saying “Today’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifiers to attend the 2024 Paris Olympic Games sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorses Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine. By allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, the IOC is strengthening Russia’s propaganda machine, empowering the Putin regime, and undermining peace. The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition, especially the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, will see the Russian state use athletes once more to bolster the war effort and distract from the atrocities in Ukraine on one of the biggest multi-sport stages in the world.” 

Some sporting 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 meet in the Australian Open women's singles final this weekend. Both are competing as neutrals.

The Lawn Tennis Association was fined £820,000 for banning Russian and Belarusian players from last summer's grass-court events, including Wimbledon.

Should the IOC decide athletes can compete as neutrals, as done at the Tokyo 2020 summer Games and the 2022 and 2018 Winter Games, the Russian flag will not be displayed and the national anthem will not be played should a gold medal be won by an athlete from Russia or Belarus. 

You can read the IOC statement here

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