Sports bodies ask IOC to allow Russian, Belarusian athletes at Olympics

Athletes from both countries have faced sanctions in multiple sports but may be allowed to compete at the Paris 2024 Games under a neutral flag.

FILE PHOTO: Olympic rings to celebrate the IOC official announcement that Paris won the 2024 Olympic bid are seen in front of the Eiffel Tower at the Trocadero square in Paris, France, September 14, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo/File Photo
The International Olympic Committee still has to make a final ruling on whether athletes from Russia and Belarus will be permitted to compete at the Olympic Games in Paris next summer [File: Christian Hartmann/AFP]

Representatives of international sports federations and national Olympic committees have called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be admitted under a neutral flag for the 2024 Games in Paris “as soon as possible”.

Athletes have moved closer to being allowed to compete as neutrals at next year’s Paris Games after an endorsement at the Olympic Summit in Lausanne on Tuesday.

At the summit, athlete representatives also asked for “clarity” on the issue, according to a statement published after the meeting.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) still has to make a final ruling on whether athletes from Russia and Belarus, a key ally for Moscow in its offensive on Ukraine, will be permitted to compete next summer.

The IOC said international Olympic summer sports federations, continental associations of national Olympic committees, and the IOC Athletes’ Commission backed such a decision and now want a quick final decision as Olympic qualifiers are taking place.

However, the IOC has repeated its stance that a decision will be taken “at the appropriate time”.

Athletes from the two countries have faced sanctions from a multitude of sports events since Russia launched its assault on Ukraine in February 2022.

However, several Olympic sports have eased restrictions over the past year, allowing them to return to competition under certain conditions.

In March, the IOC lifted an outright ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, allowing them to compete as neutral athletes provided they did not support the Ukraine conflict and had no ties to the military.

The IOC has “confirmed that the participation of such AINs [individual neutral athletes] in the Olympic Games could happen only under the existing strict conditions”.

“Neither the qualification system developed by the respective International Federations nor the number of allocated quota places to a sport will be changed for AINs with a Russian or Belarusian passport,” its statement added.

The IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) on October 12 for violating the territorial integrity of the membership of Ukraine by recognising illegally annexed territories.

ROC has recognised regional organisations from four Ukrainian territories annexed since Russia’s invasion began in 2022.

Russia’s Olympic body last month launched an appeal against its suspension by the IOC at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

In September, officials voted to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at next year’s Paralympics under a neutral flag after deciding against an outright ban.

Source: News Agencies