IOC plans for Russian, Belarusian athletes to compete under neutral flag at Asian Games
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Wednesday it would "explore a pathway" for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the upcoming Asian Games.
In a statement, the committee said it "welcomed and appreciated the offer from the Olympic Council of Asia to give these [Russian and Belarusian] athletes access to Asian competitions.”
The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions. The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games.
Competing at the Asian Games would give those athletes a chance to qualify to compete at the 2024 Paris Olympics under a neutral flag.
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The Hangzhou Asian Games are set to be held in China from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8.
Besides competing as “neutral athletes,” the IOC listed other conditions the athletes must adhere to if they wish to compete at the Asian Games and the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics.
Athletes who have not “acted against the peace mission of the IOC by actively supporting the war in Ukraine” are allowed to compete. Additionally, athletes who comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and all relevant anti-doping rules and regulations are eligible for the competitions.
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The decision was made after the committee held a meeting with members, stakeholders and global athlete groups earlier this month to discuss the athletes’ chances of participating in the games.
Several Ukrainian top executives have strongly opposed the committee’s decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the games, some of whom include President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee Vice President Oleksii Dniprov.
Dniprov, who also serves as the deputy head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, called claims that the athletes from the two barred countries would compete under a neutral flag “outright lies.”
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“The white flag under which these athletes plan to march is stained with the blood of Ukrainian children, who are killed every day by the aggressor and those who support him," he said.
Russian and Belarusian athletes were ultimately banned from participating in international games following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.
The IOC called the Russian invasion a “dilemma” in its February 2022 announcement.
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The current war in Ukraine, however, puts the Olympic Movement in a dilemma. While athletes from Russia and Belarus would be able to continue to participate in sports events, many athletes from Ukraine are prevented from doing so because of the attack on their country.