Paris Olympics: Russian and Belarusian athletes can compete, but only as neutrals, IOC says | World News – 943hare

Individual Russian and Belarusian athletes who qualify for next year’s Olympics will be allowed to compete, but only as neutrals, games bosses have said.

Athletes from the two countries had initially been banned from international competition, because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

But in March, the IOC recommended international sports federations allow them to return and they have since done so in most events.

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Friday they can take part in Paris provided they do so without flags, emblems or anthems and only as individuals.

They will not be allowed to compete in team events.

The IOC said in a statement: “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.

“Individual Neutral Athletes are athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport.”

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The IOC, which in October suspended the Russian Olympic Committee for recognising regional organisations from four territories annexed from Ukraine, also said athletes who actively support the war in Ukraine would not be welcome.

And support for them will be thin on the ground, as no Russian or Belarusian government or state official will be invited either.

Athletes from the two countries should not be punished for the actions of their governments, the IOC said, which it called a “well-established practice”.

It said: “The protection of the rights of individual athletes to participate in competitions despite the suspension of their National Olympic Committee is a well-established practice, respecting human rights.”

Eight Russians athletes and three from Belarus are among the 4,600 competitors who have so far qualified for the Summer Games, the IOC said.

In 2021, Russia sent a team of 335 athletes to the Tokyo Olympics but only dozens are likely to compete in Paris, or as the IOC said, “a very limited number of athletes will qualify through the existing qualification systems.”

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