Olympic Games 2024: IOC authorises participation of Russians and Belarusians under neutral banner

On Friday 8 December, the International Olympic Committee authorised Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate under a neutral banner in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, excluding team events and provided that they have not actively supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Only <> "neutral individual athletes" have so far qualified for the competition, eight Russians and three Belarusians, the IOC said in a statement, compared to about <> Ukrainian athletes.

The Olympic rings in Paris, host city of the 2024 Olympic Games. © AP/Michel Euler

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The question is crucial since the fear of seeing a Ukrainian delegation absent or very weakened in Paris has long worried the Olympic body, and would have made the presence of Russian athletes even more politically delicate, even without an anthem or flag.

After banning Russians and Belarusians from world sport at the end of February 2022, in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the IOC has therefore reasoned in two stages to organise their return. The IOC has repeatedly explained that athletes should not "pay" for their government's actions.

Reintegration of athletes into their competitions

Last March, the Olympic organization first recommended that international federations reintegrate Russians and Belarusians under a neutral banner into their competitions. While postponing "to an appropriate time" his decision on the 2024 Paris Olympics as well as the 2026 Milan-Cortina Olympics.

The Olympic body has given itself time to assess the conduct of the competitions - which is generally considered satisfactory - and to see the Ukrainian government's position evolve. The latter initially imposed on its athletes to boycott any event involving Russians before softening its stance this summer.

A clear sign from the sporting world

Moreover, while the international federations have followed this recommendation in a disjointed manner - athletics in particular is still refusing to reintegrate Russians - the 12th Olympic Summit held on 5 December in Lausanne has produced a clear signal from the sporting world.

Representatives of the international federations, the 206 National Olympic Committees and the athletes all called for a "swift" decision to allow the presence in Paris of the small number of Russian and Belarusian athletes who were able to overcome the qualification hurdle.

Read also2024 Olympics: UN adopts Olympic truce despite Russia's opposition


With AFP)

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