The Winter Paralympic Games begin tomorrow, and amid the Ukraine invasion by Russia, officials made an announcement. For the duration of this year’s Games, Russian and Belarusian athletes may no longer participate.
The New York Post broke the news, stating the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced the decision today. As one might guess, this comes from their countries’ roles in the conflict with Ukraine. This decision is actually an about-face, as the IPC previously stated on Wednesday it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in the games tomorrow. However, they had to enter as neutral athletes, with flags, colors, and national symbols removed.
IPC President Andrew Parsons revealed they made the decision Wednesday because of the organization’s rules and potential legal action. Additionally, they said they sympathized with the Ukrainian people. Nonetheless, the IPC’s decision prompted an “overwhelming” number of responses condemning the organization. Parsons provided a statement today informing the world his constituents heavily pushed back.
“In the last 12 hours, an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us,” Parsons said in a statement. “They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences. What is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games.”
Russia expected to have 71 athletes competing in the Games, while it is currently unknown how many Belarusian athletes would have competed.
“To Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic truce. You are victims of your governments’ actions,” Parsons said.
International Olympic Committee Wants Russia Banned from Sports too
The PIC isn’t the only committee with a bone to pick with Russia. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is calling upon sports bodies to exclude Russian athletes from all international sports.
Similar to the PIC, the IOC wishes to do so to “protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants.” This also applies to athletes and officials hailing from Belarus. The decision paved the way for FIFA to exclude Russia from a World Cup qualifying playoff match on March 24. Poland also refused to play the scheduled game against Russia anyway.
This decision does not completely exclude Russia and Belarus. If the exclusion is “not possible on short notice for organizational or legal reasons,” Russia and Belarus may compete. In that event though, they must compete as neutral athletes.
The IOC said it is acting “with a heavy heart,” but must do it because of the war with Ukraine.