The IOC confirms Russian athletes can compete at Paris Olympics

GENEVA — Some Russian athletes will be allowed to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics, the IOC said Friday, in a decision that removed the option of a blanket ban over the invasion of Ukraine.

The International Olympic Committee’s decision confirms moves it started one year ago to reintegrate Russia and its military ally Belarus into global sports, and nine months after it urged sports governing bodies to look at ways to let individual athletes compete.

It is up to each Olympic sport’s governing body to assess and enforce neutral status for individual athletes who have not actively supported the war and are not contracted to military or state security agencies.

The IOC said Friday eight Russians and three from Belarus are among 4,600 athletes worldwide who have so far qualified for the Summer Games.

Russia sent a team of 335 athletes to the Tokyo Olympics held in 2021 but only dozens are likely to compete in Paris. Russia remains banned from team sports.

“Only a very limited number of athletes will qualify through the existing qualification systems of the (governing bodies),” the IOC said in a statement

Those who are given neutral status must compete without their national identity of flag, anthem or colors. Light blue uniforms have been mandated by the International Gymnastics Federation.

Russian government and sports officials have often insisted that any restrictions on their athletes are politicized and unacceptable.

The toughest stance has been taken by track and field’s World Athletics, which has excluded all Russians from international competition since the invasion started in February 2022.

The IOC and its President Thomas Bach also urged excluding Russia from sports when the war started days after the closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games, then eased their position through last year as qualifying events for Paris approached.

Athletes and officials from Ukraine, including President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have repeatedly urged the IOC to expel Russia and Belarus entirely from the Olympics because of the war Russia started.

They have said any Olympic medal wins for Russians will be used as propaganda by the state. Russian medal winners are often linked to military sports clubs such as the CSKA which is tied to the army.

The IOC have repeatedly cited the war in Ukraine as being among dozens of ongoing conflicts, and that athletes worldwide and especially from Africa do not want fellow competitors to be punished by the actions of their government.

Last year, Bach pointed to the gravity of Russia breaching the United Nations-backed Olympic Truce that was in place for the Winter Games and Paralympics in China.

A fresh Olympic Truce for Paris was approved this month at the UN in New York, though with only 118 votes in favor from the 193 member states. Russia and Syria abstained.