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IOC confirms Russian athletes can compete at Paris Olympics as neutrals

The governing bodies of each sport has the power to enforce neutral status for Russian athletes who didn't support war.

International Olympic Committee IOC

IOC Headquarters


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 9 Dec 2023 1:47 AM GMT

The International Olympic Committee on Friday confirmed that Russian athletes can compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes.

The International Olympic Committee's decision confirms moves it started one year ago to reintegrate Russia and its military ally Belarus into global sports, and nine months after it urged sports governing bodies to look at ways to let individual athletes compete.

It is up to each Olympic sport's governing body to assess and enforce neutral status for individual athletes who have not actively supported the war and are not contracted to military or state security agencies.

The IOC said Friday that eight Russians and three from Belarus are among 4,600 athletes worldwide who have so far qualified for the Summer Games.

Although the blanket ban is removed from individual sports only, the country remains banned from team sports.

“Only a very limited number of athletes will qualify through the existing qualification systems of the (governing bodies),” the IOC said in a statement.

Those who are given neutral status must compete without their national identity of flag, anthem, or colours. Light blue uniforms have been mandated by the International Gymnastics Federation.

The Russian government and sports officials have often insisted that any restrictions on their athletes are politicized and unacceptable.

The toughest stance has been taken by track and field's World Athletics, which has excluded all Russians from international competition since the invasion started in February 2022.

The IOC and its President Thomas Bach also urged excluding Russia from sports when the war started days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games, then eased their position through last year as qualifying events for Paris approached.

Athletes and officials from Ukraine, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have repeatedly urged the IOC to expel Russia and Belarus entirely from the Olympics because of the war Russia started.

They have said any Olympic medal won by Russians will be used as propaganda by the state. Russian medal winners are often linked to military sports clubs such as the CSKA which is tied to the army.

The IOC has repeatedly cited the war in Ukraine as being among dozens of ongoing conflicts, and that athletes worldwide especially from Africa do not want fellow competitors to be punished by the actions of their government.

Last year, Bach pointed to the gravity of Russia breaching the United Nations-backed Olympic Truce that was in place for the Winter Games and Paralympics in China.

A fresh Olympic Truce for Paris was approved this month at the UN in New York, though with only 118 votes in favor from the 193 member states. Russia and Syria abstained.

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