The International Olympic Committee on Friday confirmed that Russian and Belarusian citizens will be able to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris as individual neutral athletes, prohibited from sporting the flag or colors of their countries or backing the war in Ukraine—after some IOC officials suggested the Ukraine invasion could lead to an all-out ban.
In addition to a ban on Russian and Belarusian flags, anthems and colors, the IOC also said that athletes or support personnel who actively support the war in Ukraine will be prohibited.
In its press release, the committee says it took into account “the view of the overwhelming majority of athletes not to punish fellow athletes for the actions of their government.”
Like all Olympic athletes, the “Individual Neutral Athletes” will have to sign the “Conditions of Participation” ahead of the 2024 games in Paris, which commits them to respect “the peace mission of the Olympic Movement.”
“Only a very limited number of athletes” will ultimately be eligible to participate under the “strict eligibility” conditions the IOC has laid out, the international organization claims.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Olympics officials hinted at an all-out ban from the 2024 Olympics for both Russia and its ally Belarus. In March, however, the IOC first laid the groundwork for Friday’s decision, recommending that international sports federations allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition and announcing its intention to explore a pathway for them to compete in the 2024 games. At the time, the organization said that it “feels deeply for the Ukrainian people” but it “cannot prevent wars and conflicts” nor “address all the political and social challenges in our world.” Despite Friday’s announcement, Russian and Belarusian athletes will still likely be barred from competing in the 2024 Games’ biggest sport area, track and field. World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, has maintained an all-out ban on Russia and Belarus since the war began, and has previously signaled its “unlikely” to reverse that ban.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent debate over its future in the Olympics, came just months before the country’s two-year ban from international sports due to its state-sponsored doping ring at the Sochi Olympics was set to expire.
What To Watch For
How Ukraine responds. After the board’s March announcement that it was working on a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, Ukrainian officials threatened to boycott the Games.
On X, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba condemned the IOC’s decision, claiming that the organization “essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics.” He argued that Russia “will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare.” Meanwhile, Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin called the Olympics’ continued restrictive policies on Russian athletes “discriminatory.” “They are damaging the Olympic Games themselves, and not Russian sport,” he said in comments reported by Agence France Presse.
11. That’s how many Individual Neutral Athletes have qualified for the games so far. That includes eight Russians and three Belarusians, the IOC said. So far, more than 60 Ukrainians have qualified.
Recent reports have suggested that Russia can compete in the 2024 Olympics despite the war with Ukraine, subject to certain conditions. This is subject to some debate as Russia has been accused of involvement in armed conflict in the region.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has stated that in light of the current conflict, Russian athletes would be allowed to participate in the 2024 Games, but only if they are allowed to do so as a neutral team.
This decision was made after careful consideration of all factors, including the severity of the conflict, and the potential security concerns for the athletes and fans attending the event. The IOC noted that the decision is a balancing act between granting Russian athletes the right to compete and safeguarding the safety of the athletes and of spectators.
The decision has been met with mixed reactions. Some claim that the IOC is showing favoritism to one side of the conflict and is not being impartial in the promotion of fairness. They further commented that the IOC should be driving the peace process by denying the Russians the right to compete.
On the other hand, supporters of the decision argue that allowing the Russians to participate is a positive step towards peace and reconciliation and an attempt to bring the two sides together. They also commented that sanctions have been proven to be ineffective in resolving conflicts.
It is clear to see that this is a highly complex and contentious issue. Whilst the IOC’s decision may not be ideal for all parties, it does demonstrate recognition of the need for a diplomatic approach to resolving the conflict.
In conclusion, whilst the situation with Ukraine is ongoing and the future of Russia’s participation is uncertain, the decision to allow the Russians to compete in the 2024 Games as neutral athletes is one that takes into account the safety of the athletes and fans, and a potential step towards reconciliation between the two sides.