Paris – December 9, 2023
In a controversial move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals in the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympics. This decision, leading to criticism from Ukrainian authorities, follows the initial ban of athletes from participating in global competitions after Russia invaded Ukraine.
According to the IOC’s announcement on Friday, Russian and Belarusian athletes who qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics will compete without displaying flags, emblems, or anthems. This exception applies only to individual sports, as team events are off-limits. Additionally, athletes must refrain from actively supporting the war in Ukraine to maintain their neutral status.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister, DmytroKuleba, expressed strong disapproval of the decision, stating on social media, “The IOC essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics. I urge all partners to strongly condemn this shameful decision, which undermines Olympic principles.”
Initially barred from international competitions, Russian and Belarusian athletes have gradually been allowed back as neutral participants in most sports. The IOC revealed that out of the 4,600 athletes worldwide who have qualified for the Summer Games, eight are Russians, and three are Belarusians.
The IOC emphasized that no state or government officials from Russia or Belarus will be invited or accredited for Paris 2024. However, they argue that athletes should not be held accountable for the actions of their respective governments.
Russia’s Sports Minister, Oleg Matytsin, criticized the decision as “discriminatory.” Meanwhile, more than 60 Ukrainian athletes have qualified for the Paris Olympics, with over 11,000 athletes expected to participate in the games.
Athletes and officials from Ukraine, including President VolodymyrZelenskyy, have consistently urged the IOC to exclude Russia and Belarus entirely. On the other hand, representatives from international sports federations and national Olympic committees advocated for the admission of Russian and Belarusian athletes under a neutral flag, asserting that it should happen “as soon as possible.”
Ukraine’s Sports Minister, MatviyBidnyi, expressed concerns ahead of the decision, stating that Kyiv worried the move conveyed a lack of leadership from the IOC in matters of Olympic fairness and justice. He emphasized, “When there is a war, and one nation with its passports is destroying another nation, then ‘neutrality’ becomes irresponsibility.”
President Vladimir Putin previously accused the IOC of “ethnic discrimination” earlier this year. The IOC’s decision opens a new chapter in the ongoing debate surrounding the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sporting events amid geopolitical tensions.