IOC rules “neutral” Russian athletes can compete in Paris Olympics

December 8, 2023

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced Friday that Russian athletes can compete in the 2024 Paris Olympics with approved neutral status—removing the option of a blanket ban over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Whether to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus—Moscow’s closest ally in its war against Ukraine—to compete in the Olympics and other international sporting events has been an ongoing point of debate for months.

This past February, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo asserted that Russia should be blocked from the games set to take place in her city in summer 2024, whether under a neutral flag or not.

And this past July the Czech Republic banned both Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) tournament in Prague.

On Friday, the IOC said eight Russians and three Belarusians were among 4,600 athletes worldwide who have so far qualified for the Summer Games.

It is up to the Olympic sport’s governing body to assess and enforce neutral status for individual competitors who have not actively supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and are not contracted to the military or any state security agencies. 

In 2021—months before the invasion—Russia sent 335 athletes to the Tokyo Olympics. Roughly a dozen are expected to qualify as neutral athletes for the Paris games.

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