Russian and Belarusian athletes banned from Paralympic Winter Games

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The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had said a day earlier that athletes from both countries would be allowed to compete as “neutrals” at the Games, which begin on Friday.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had said a day earlier that athletes from both countries would be allowed to compete as “neutrals” at the Games. PA

Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from the Beijing Paralympic Winter Games on Thursday due to the war in Ukraine, with organizers bowing to international pressure and boycott threats.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had said a day earlier that athletes from both countries would be allowed to compete as “neutrals” at the Games, which begin on Friday.

He said it was the “severest punishment” the IPC could impose under its rules.

But organizers reversed that decision less than 24 hours later, meaning 83 athletes from Russia and Belarus, who hosted troops for the Moscow attack, will now pack up and head home.

“In order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” the IPC said in a statement.

“To the para-athletes of the affected countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments made last week in violating the Olympic Truce. You are victims of the actions of your governments,” said the president of the IPC, Andrew Parsons, to reporters.

Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sports federations around the world to exclude athletes from both countries.

Several Paralympic committees around the world, teams and athletes had threatened not to compete if Russian and Belarusian athletes were present, which “jeopardizes the viability” of the Games, organizers said.

“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athletes’ villages is worsening and has now become unsustainable,” the IPC said in a statement.

Parsons said he expects both countries to take legal action against the decision.

“I hope and pray that we can return to a situation where the discourse and the focus is entirely on the power of sport to transform the lives of people with disabilities and the best of humanity,” Parsons said.

The previous decision to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete caused a swift backlash on Wednesday.

The top German Paralympic official said the decision lacked courage.

“It’s a dark day for the Paralympic movement,” the president of the country’s Paralympic committee, Friedhelm Julius Beucher, told AFP.

Emotional rollercoaster

The Ukrainian athletes arrived in Beijing on Wednesday after a grueling and logistically difficult trip from their home country which faced a full-scale invasion from Russia.

More than half a million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries.

Earlier Thursday, members of Ukraine’s biathlon team were preparing for the competition, hitting the slopes for skiing and shooting practice in Zhangjiakou.

The small Eastern European country has punched above its weight in previous winter Paralympic events, with frequent podium finishes in biathlon and skiing competitions.

The delegation won 22 medals in 2018, including seven gold medals, earning sixth place in the world rankings.

For some team members, the emotional roller coaster and disturbed focus will be a case of deja vu.

During Russia’s hosting of the Paralympic Winter Games in 2014, Ukrainian athletes had to contend with Moscow’s takeover of the Crimean peninsula.


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