Russian and Belarusian athletes were excluded from the Paris 2024 Opening Ceremony

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that athletes from Russia and Belarus will not participate in the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics in Paris. This decision stems from the ban imposed on athletes from both countries following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Despite the ban, individual athletes from Russia and Belarus who qualify for the Games have the opportunity to compete as neutrals. However, a verdict regarding their involvement in the closing ceremony will be made at a later stage.

Currently, there are 12 individual neutral athletes holding Russian passports and seven with Belarusian passports who have secured qualification for Paris 2024 from the allocated 6,000 quota places. Their participation in the Games comes with the condition of competing without displaying the flags, emblems, or anthems of their respective countries.

Furthermore, the IOC denounced Russia’s proposal to organise ‘friendship games,’ considering it a cynical attempt to politicise sports. Russia aims to host these games in September 2024, with another edition planned for 2026. The IOC criticised this initiative as a blatant violation of the Olympic Charter, highlighting Russia’s efforts to bypass sports organisations and engage in a diplomatic offensive worldwide.

The IOC expressed concerns about the Russian government’s disregard for global anti-doping standards and the integrity of competitions, emphasising the potential exploitation of athletes for political propaganda. Additionally, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) raised alarms about unsanctioned multi-sport events like the Friendship Games, which could compromise athlete health and fairness by operating outside the protective framework of the World Anti-Doping Code.

The IOC’s stance underscores the importance of upholding the principles of fair play, integrity, and neutrality in international sports events while condemning any attempts to manipulate or politicise sporting competitions for geopolitical agendas.

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