Russia and Belarus athletes banned from Paralympics after team protests
Athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to compete at the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) reversed its original decision.
The IPC was heavily criticised when, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it initially said it would allow the athletes to compete as neutrals.
A statement said the “situation in the athlete villages” was “untenable”.
The Games’ opening ceremony takes place on Friday.
IPC president Andrew Parsons said an “overwhelming number of members” had told his organisation they would not compete should athletes from Russia and Belarus be allowed to take part.
Parsons described the Russian and Belarusian athletes affected as “victims of your governments’ actions”.
“We are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix,” Parsons added.
“However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many governments are having an influence on our cherished event.
“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable.”
Valeriy Sushkevych, the Ukrainian Paralympic chief, said his team’s presence at the Games is a “symbol that Ukraine is alive”.
There were set to be 71 competitors from Russia and 12 from Belarus – plus guides for both nations – competing in Beijing.
Parsons said the decision to prevent the athletes competing would “preserve the integrity” of the Games and “the safety of all participants”.
On Wednesday, a number of governing bodies and political figures criticised the IPC for not immediately banning Russian and Belarusian athletes.
A joint statement from the athletes of Ukraine and the Global Athlete group, an international athlete-led body that aims to inspire change in world sport, said the IPC had issued “another blow” to every Ukrainian athlete and citizen with its decision.
Ukrainian Olympic skeleton racer Vladyslav Heraskevych, speaking before the IPC reversed its decision, described the situation as “disgusting”.
“They put Russia above the interest of other countries,” said Heraskevych, who displayed an anti-war sign during the Beijing Games in February.
“Anything less than a full ban is unacceptable. It’s sad and heartbreaking.”
Nadine Dorries, UK Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said she was “very pleased” the IPC had changed its ruling after calling for it to “urgently reconsider”.
Dorries added: “The welfare of all the other competing athletes is of upmost importance and we’re pleased the IPC also recognise that.” (BBC Sport)