Paralympics Does U-Turn on Russia, Belarus Athletes

They're now banned from Beijing Games
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2022 4:28 AM CST
Russia, Belarus Athletes Banned From Paralympics
A Ukrainian journalist wearing a face mask bearing the words "No War in Ukraine" walks through the Main Media Center ahead of the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing, China, Wednesday, March 2, 2022.   (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(Newser) – The 2022 Winter Paralympic Games kick off in Beijing Friday—and after an abrupt reversal from the International Paralympic Committee, athletes from Russia and Belarus will not be taking part. In a statement, IPC President Andrew Parsons said an "overwhelming number" of national committees had contacted the organization, with many threatening to boycott the Games over Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and "the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position," the BBC reports. Parsons said that with athletes vowing not to compete against Russian and Belarussian rivals, the situation in the athlete villages "is escalating and has now become untenable."

"Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us," Parsons said. The reversal comes less than 24 hours after the IPC said it would allow competitors from the two countries to take part as neutral athletes under the Paralympic flag with all national symbols removed, the AP reports. The move will affect around 83 athletes from Russia and Belarus plus their guides, reports the Guardian. "To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce," Parson said. "You are victims of your governments' actions."

Ukrainian Paralympic chief Valeriy Sushkevych said it was a "miracle" that the country's team of 20 athletes and nine guides had made it to the Games. "We came here from Ukraine and we traveled through Ukraine. It took us many days, we had to overcome a lot of barriers that had to do with the war," he said, per the BBC. "Many members of our team barely managed to escape from the bombardments and shells exploding but still we made it here." He said with Russia attempting to destroy Ukraine as an independent country, it was a "matter of principle" to make it to the Games "as a symbol of Ukraine that is alive." (According to an intelligence report, China asked Russia to delay the invasion until after the Winter Olympics.)

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