(Beijing) Less than 24 hours ago to change its mind: Under pressure, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has finally decided to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Winter Games starting Friday in Beijing.
Posted at 6:32
“It’s a terrible situation, it’s a shame,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov replied.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was taken over in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in which Belarus is cooperating, announced that these athletes could participate in the Games under a neutral banner, a decision that has been contested in several countries.
In a press release, the IPC justified its change by the fact that “teams and athletes are now threatening not to participate, jeopardizing the chances of success of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.”
“The situation in the athletes’ village is deteriorating and ensuring their safety has become impossible,” the commission added, on the eve of the opening ceremony of the Games, which will be held in the Chinese capital until March 13.
During a press conference, Andrew Parsons, President of the International Patent Federation, referred to addressing 83 athletes from the two countries involved.
“We regret that you are concerned about the decisions taken by your government last week,” he said, referring to the attack launched by Moscow in Ukraine, in cooperation with Belarus. “You are victims of the actions of your governments.”
His initial decision to allow the two countries to compete on Wednesday was heavily criticized.
“The fact that these two delegations were not excluded is incomprehensible,” the president of the German Paralympic Sports Federation Friedhelm Julius Bucher lamented.
We argue according to the rules, while in Ukraine we kill without any rules. “This decision sends an absolutely bad message,” he added.
” Thank you so much ”
The head of the German Paralympic Federation delegation, Karl Quad, added from Beijing: “The most painful thing for me was hearing the explosion of joy in the Russian pavilion next door when Mr. Parsons announced the decision.”
Andrew Parsons clarified that the IPC statute does not allow the organization to exclude these athletes. In any case, not before the organization of a public meeting scheduled for later this year.
Hence, he urged the Paralympics to treat “neutral athletes (Russians and Belarusians) as they would any other athlete”. “Unlike their governments, these athletes and officials are not aggressors,” he said.
For his part, the Ukrainian national team arrived in Beijing on Wednesday.
“It’s a miracle,” Ukraine Olympic Committee president Valery Suchkevich told reporters on Thursday, describing a “difficult” journey to collect athletes and equipment before leaving for Beijing.
“Many of our team members had difficulty escaping from the bombs […] Our main goal in coming here is to defend our country with the entire international sporting community.”
He also sent a “big thanks” to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for reversing its initial decision and excluding the Russian and Belarusian athletes.
During the 2018 edition in Pyeongchang, the Ukrainians distinguished themselves with several podiums in skiing and biathlon. The delegation won 22 medals (including 7 gold) and ranked sixth in the country’s ranking.
In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) accused Russia of violating the Olympic Truce. On Monday, he urged federations to ban Russians as well as Belarusians from all competitions.
Thus, FIFA excluded Russia from the 2022 World Cup. Several federations (athletics, skiing, rugby, boxing and swimming) announced exclusion measures targeting Russian and Belarusian athletes.
Before Russia and Belarus were excluded, the 2022 Paralympic Games were scheduled to bring together nearly 650 athletes competing in six sports (biathlon, wheelchair curling, ice hockey, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding). The opening ceremony will take place on Friday.
As during the Olympics, the sporting event will be held in a hygienic bubble to avoid any spillover of the coronavirus elsewhere in China.
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