The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has made a decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutrals. This decision comes after the athletes were initially banned from competing internationally due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to the IOC, Russian and Belarusian athletes who qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics will be able to take part without displaying their flags, emblems, or anthems. However, they must not actively support the war in Ukraine. This means that they will only be allowed to compete in individual sports, and no teams from Russia or Belarus will be permitted to participate in the games.
So far, eight Russians and three Belarusians are among the 4,600 athletes worldwide who have qualified for the Summer Games, which are set to open in July. On the other hand, more than 60 Ukrainian athletes have also qualified for the Paris Olympics, making a total of about 11,000 athletes expected to participate.
The decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals has been met with mixed reactions. While representatives of international sports federations and national Olympic committees have called for their admission, athletes and officials from Ukraine, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have urged the IOC to exclude Russia and Belarus entirely.
Ukraine’s Sport Minister, Matviy Bidnyi, expressed concerns that the move gives the impression that the IOC “does not want to demonstrate the necessary leadership in the matter of Olympic fairness and justice.” He also stated that “any neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood” and that giving up their Russian passport was “the only possible way today for an athlete to prove Olympic excellence is his first priority.”
Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the IOC of using the games as a form of “ethnic discrimination.” Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, the IOC has made it clear that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutrals, as long as they meet the specified conditions.
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