Olympics clear Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals

Daniil Medvedev at the 2023 ATP Finals

Qualified Russian and Belarusian tennis players will be able to play the Olympic Games tennis tournament after the IOC cleared their participation at Paris 2024 under a neutral flag.

They must compete without flying national flags, symbols, or songs in order to be included.

Those countries’ athletes were prohibited from all competition when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

According to the IOC, allowing people to participate was about “respecting human rights”.

Ukraine’s sports minister, Vadym Huttsait told Reuters in July that the country may back down from its threat to boycott the Games if the ban was overturned and that athletes from Belarus and Russia were forced to compete under a neutral flag.

“The executive board of the IOC has decided that individual neutral athletes (AINs) who have qualified through the existing qualification systems of the International Federations on the field of play will be declared eligible to compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in accordance with the conditions outlined,” the Olympic body said on Friday.

“AINs are athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport. The strict eligibility conditions based on the recommendations issued by the IOC executive board on 28 March 2023 for international federations and international sports event organisers will be applied.”

In March, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) advised sports federations to permit individual individuals from Belarus and Russia to compete, but kept in place a full ban on team sport participation.

Athletes and support staff who actively back the armed conflict in Ukraine must continue to be barred from competition.

“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,” the IOC said.

Russian and Belarusian players cannot complete the requirement to compete in the team events, the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup, as their countries remain barred from those competitions.

In October, the IOC “with immediate effect until further notice” banned the Russian Olympic Committee for having recognised regional bodies from four unlawfully acquired territories Russia annexed from Ukraine.

The IOC stated that the “overwhelming majority of athletes” did not wish to “punish fellow athletes for the actions of their government” while making its decision.

The IOC also reiterated its goal of helping Ukrainian athletes “in every way possible, so that the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine can field a strong team at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.”

The Paris Olympics are scheduled to take place between 26 July 26 and 11 August 2024.

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