FILE PHOTO: Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games – International Paralympic Committee press conference – Main Media Center, Beijing, China – March 2, 2022. IPC President Andrew Parsons during a press conference ahead of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games following the IPC Executive Board’s decision regarding on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing during the Ukraine crisis. Thomas Lovelock/OIS/Handout via REUTERS
March 3, 2022
By Dhruv Munjal
(Reuters) – Russian and Belarusian athletes were banned from the Winter Paralympics in Beijing on Thursday on the eve of the Games after other teams threatened to boycott them over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.
Belarus was a key base for the invasion that launched a week ago.
The decision comes a day after the IPC gave athletes from the two countries the green light to compete as neutral participants, saying the governing body followed its rules and that “athletes are not the aggressors”.
But that decision prompted an outcry and threats from other countries’ National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) to boycott the Games, IPC President Andrew Parsons said at a news conference in Beijing.
“They told us that if we don’t reconsider our decision now, it’s likely to have serious consequences for the Winter Games,” Parsons said.
“Several NPCs, some of whom have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.”
Parsons said it was clear the situation put his organization in a “unique and impossible position” so close to the start of the Games, adding that an overwhelming number of members have been in touch and openly expressed their objections to Russia and Belarus participating have pronounced .
A 71-man Russian contingent and a 12-man team from Belarus are already in Beijing for the games that begin on Friday.
Parsons said the Russian and Belarusian athletes were victims of their governments’ actions.
“The well-being of the athletes will always be our priority,” he said.
“If Russian and Belarusian athletes stayed in Beijing, the nations would likely withdraw and a viable game would not have been possible.
“The atmosphere in the games village is not pleasant. The situation there is escalating and has now become untenable… The Games are not only about gold, silver and bronze, but also about sending a strong signal of inclusion.”
Parsons said the IPC is likely to face legal ramifications but is confident the right decision has been made.
The IPC previously said in a statement that after a specially convened meeting, its board decided not to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate.
(Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Robert Birsel)
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