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Russian, Belarusian athletes barred from Paris Olympics opening ceremony

by Chris York and The Kyiv Independent news desk March 19, 2024 11:08 PM 1 min read
A protester holds a poster that reads "Bloody Olympics: World Champions in Torture" at a demonstration calling for the ban of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Paris Olympics in Krakow, Poland, on July 23, 2023. (Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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Athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to take part in the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics this summer, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on March 19.

Such athletes will be competing at the event as Individual Neutral Athletes (AIN) following a decision to not invite either country to the sporting event due to the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

IOC director James Macleod, said they could not “participate in the parade of delegations and teams during the opening ceremony.”

He added: “But an opportunity will be provided to them to experience the event.”

Opening ceremony parades have traditionally seen thousands of athletes walk a lap of the host country’s main sporting stadium but this year’s will see them sail in boats down the River Seine.

Macleod said a decision on AINs participating in the closing ceremony will be taken at a later date.

Russia was officially banned from competing in the Olympics for four years in 2019 due to systematic doping practices, but still participated in 2020 and 2022 under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The ROC was suspended in October 2023 for declaring authority over the athletic organizations of Russian-occupied Ukraine.

Under the rules, Russian and Belarusian athletes are not able to participate as teams nor display any flags or any official identification with either country.

Athletes or support personnel who have openly supported the war will not be allowed, as will anyone who has served or is affiliated with either the military or security organizations of Russia or Belarus.

Ukrainian officials and athletes, who have consistently campaigned for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned altogether, reacted with public disappointment at the decision.

“The IOC essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote after the decision. "Because the Kremlin will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare."

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