IOC confirms Russian athletes can compete at Paris Olympics with approved neutral status

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IOC confirms Russian athletes can compete at Paris Olympics with approved neutral status

GENEVA — Some Russian athletes will be allowed to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics, the IOC announced Friday, in a decision that removed the option of a blanket ban in the event of an invasion of Ukraine.

The International Olympic Committee’s decision confirms steps taken a year ago to reintegrate Russia and its military ally Belarus into world sport, and nine months after urging the sport’s governing bodies to study ways to allow individual athletes to compete.

It is up to the governing body of each Olympic sport to evaluate and impose neutral status on individual athletes who have not actively supported the war and who are not under contract with military or security agencies of the State.

The IOC said Friday that eight Russians and three Belarusians were among 4,600 athletes from around the world qualified so far for the Summer Games.

Russia has sent a team of 335 athletes to the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but only dozens are expected to compete in Paris. Russia remains banned from team sports.

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

Those who benefit from neutral status must compete without their national identity, nor their flag, nor their anthem, nor their colors. The light blue uniforms were required by the International Gymnastics Federation.

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

The toughest stance has been taken by the World Athletics Federation, which has excluded all Russians from international competitions since the invasion began in February 2022.

The IOC and its president Thomas Bach also called for excluding Russia from the sport when war broke out days after the Beijing Winter Games closing ceremony, then softened their stance last year as the Games approached. qualifying events for Paris.

Ukrainian athletes and officials, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have repeatedly urged the IOC to completely exclude Russia and Belarus from the Olympics due to the war started by Russia.

They said any Olympic medals won by Russians would be used as propaganda by the state. Russian medalists are often linked to military sports clubs such as CSKA, which is linked to the army.

The IOC has repeatedly cited the war in Ukraine as one of dozens of ongoing conflicts and the fact that athletes around the world, particularly in Africa, do not want their competitors to be punished by the actions of their governments .

Last year, Bach highlighted the seriousness of Russia’s violation of the United Nations-backed Olympic truce in force for the Winter and Paralympic Games in China.

A new Olympic truce for Paris was approved this month at the UN in New York, with just 118 votes in favor among the 193 member states. Russia and Syria abstained.

• AP coverage of the Paris Olympics:

IOC confirms Russian athletes can compete at Paris Olympics with approved neutral status - 1

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Alice Ross

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