Sport Backflip as Russian athletes banned from Beijing Winter Paralympic Games
Live

Backflip as Russian athletes banned from Beijing Winter Paralympic Games

Share
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email
Live

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from the Winter Paralympics, in a stunning backflip from the International Paralympic Committee after multiple teams and athletes threatened to boycott the Beijing Games.

The IPC backed down on Wednesday evening’s decision to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as neutral athletes, without their colours, flags and other national symbols, after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was supported by Belarus.

It cited threats from National Paralympic Committees, teams and athletes not to compete, saying such a boycott would jeopardise the Games’ viability.

It also noted escalating animosity in the athletes’ village meant “ensuring the safety of athletes (if Russian and Belarusian athletes remained) has become untenable”.

“In the last 12 hours, an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

“They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

“Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.

“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable.”

Parsons said in a later press conference there weren’t any specific reported incidents of “aggression” or confrontations but the athletes’ village was becoming a “volatile” environment.

“The temperature in the village was escalating and really, really fast. Before that happens, we want to take action,” he said.

Parsons said the IPC hadn’t underestimated the level of backlash it would receive for Wednesday’s original decision.

“We haven’t underestimated the situation but what we tried to do with the previous decision was to stick to the principles of the organisation and keep war outside of these Games,” he said.

“The war was brought to these Games and it was escalated.”

Australia was not among the teams to threaten a boycott, but welcomed Thursday’s announcement.

“This is the best decision to ensure that the integrity of the Beijing Paralympic Games is upheld to the best possible standards in these unprecedented times,” Paralympics Australia president Jock O’Callaghan said.

“We recognise that this situation doesn’t give us the luxury to (rely) upon the principle that ‘politics and sport should not mix’ when we are witnessing hostilities in Europe on this scale.

“The IPC has made a complex and difficult decision on the cusp of a Paralympic Games opening ceremony, but we believe it is the right one with the safety and security of all participants at its core.”

O’Callaghan had on Wednesday, before the IPC handed down its original decision, called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned.

Parsons sympathised with the 83 Russian and Belarusian athletes who will now be directly affected, but stressed their situation was of their own governments’ making.

“We are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments’ actions,” he said.

Ukraine has said it will have 20 athletes in Beijing.

-with AP