Russians and Belarusians who qualify in their sport for the Paris 2024 Olympics can take part as neutrals without flags, emblems or anthems at the event next year, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said, writes Reuters.
Russians and Belarusians had initially been banned from competing internationally following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, for which Belarus has been used as a staging ground. In March, however, the IOC issued a first set of recommendations for international sports federations to allow Russian and Belarusian competitors to return and they have since done so in most events. Athletics, the Games’ biggest sport, is unlikely to open the door for them to return to competition, however, after banning them following the invasion and sticking to it on Friday.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba condemned what he said was a “shameful” IOC decision while Russia’s Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin called the conditions set by the IOC for Russian athletes’ participation at the Olympics “discriminatory”.
“The Executive Board (EB) of the IOC has decided that Individual Neutral Athletes (AINs) who have qualified through the existing qualification systems of the International Federations (IFs) on the field of play will be declared eligible to compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024”, - the Olympic body said.
The neutral athletes will only compete in individual sports and no teams for the two countries will be allowed. Athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine are not eligible, nor are those contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military. The IOC also said no Russian or Belarusian government or state official would be invited to or accredited for Paris 2024. But athletes, it added, should not be punished for the actions of their governments.