Russian and Belarusian Athletes Granted Neutral Status for Paris 2024 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Olympics as neutrals. The decision, driven by the IOC’s commitment to “respecting human rights,” requires athletes to compete without national flags, emblems, or anthems. Following the 2022 Russia-Ukraine conflict, athletes from these nations were initially banned. While World Athletics maintains its exclusion stance in their events, the IOC’s move aligns with the athletes’ qualification systems set by international federations. So, the outcome is that the Russian athletes granted neutral status.

Ukraine’s Response and IOC’s Strict Eligibility Conditions

Amid threats of a Ukrainian boycott, the IOC’s decision responds to concerns raised by Olympic sports federations. Ukraine had sought reassurance that Russian and Belarusian athletes compete under a neutral flag. The IOC outlined six “strict eligibility conditions” for these individual neutral athletes (AINs), emphasizing adherence to anti-doping requirements and excluding those supporting the war or associated with military entities. Despite allowing AINs’ participation, sanctions against Russian and Belarusian states and governments, including restrictions on national symbols, remain intact at the Paris 2024 Games.

IOC’s Approach and Global Reaction

The IOC’s approach contrasts with World Athletics’ steadfast exclusion stance, reflecting varying perspectives among international sports bodies. The decision underscores the complexity of navigating sports diplomacy amid geopolitical tensions. The IOC has faced criticism for its exploration of pathways for Russian and Belarusian participation, with concerns raised by several countries. The decision aims to balance individual athletes’ rights with geopolitical considerations, ensuring a nuanced approach to their involvement in the upcoming Olympics. The IOC reiterates its commitment to supporting Ukrainian athletes, emphasizing the importance of their presence at the Paris 2024 Games.