IOC bars Russia, Belarusia from Paris Olympics opening ceremony

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been barred from participating in the parade of nations at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics, the International Olympics Committee (IOC) announced on Tuesday (Mar 19).

The decision was taken after an IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland. The athletes from the two countries have already been forced to compete under a neutral flag but the latest decision is expected to further drive a wedge. 

IOC director James McCloud said neutral athletes from either country “will not participate in the parade of delegations and teams during the opening ceremony since they are individual athletes”. 

IOC said a similar scenario was used for the independent Olympics participants from former Yugoslavia at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. 

The opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics takes place on July 26 and will see thousands of athletes from across the globe, travel on boats down the River Seine for several kilometres towards the Eiffel Tower. Usually, athletes take a lap around the stadium where the Olympic flame is lit up.  

A decision regarding their participation in the closing ceremony (Aug 11) will be taken at a later stage. Even then, the athletes from the two nations will not enter as teams, albeit as independent athletes jointly together, IOC informed. 

According to reports, the IOC expects about 36 and 22 neutral athletes with Russian and Belarusian passports respectively to qualify for the Paris Olympics.  

IOC slams Russia

The decision by the IOC comes hours after it released a scathing statement, blasting Russia for organising ‘Friendship Games’ that aims to politicise the sporting world.  

“It is a cynical attempt by the Russian Federation to politicise sport. The IOC Athletes’ Commission, representing all the Olympic athletes of the world, clearly opposes using athletes for political propaganda,” read the statement. 

The World Friendship Games is a multi-sport event set to be held in Moscow in September. According to the Russian state news agency TASS, 5,500 people are expected to participate in the Friendship Games, competing for a total prize purse of approximately $50 million. 

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