In a significant development, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that Russia and Belarus will not receive invitations to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. This decision comes in light of Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
However, athletes from both countries will still have the opportunity to compete as independent Olympians under a neutral flag, provided their respective sports allow it. The IOC had been deliberating on whether to extend invitations to Russia and Belarus for several months.
As the deadline for sending invitations approaches later this month, the committee felt compelled to make a formal decision. In a statement posted on its website, the IOC highlighted the precedent set by other sports such as tennis, cycling, and football, which have made similar determinations regarding Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The primary objective behind this decision is to safeguard the security and integrity of the Olympic Games. The IOC also cited a letter from the United Nations Human Rights Council, which advised against an outright ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes, deeming it a discriminatory act and a flagrant violation of human rights.
This recommendation influenced the committee's ultimate ruling.
Ongoing Conflict Raises Invitation Uncertainty
Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which commenced during the Beijing Olympics and Paralympic Games last year, is widely regarded as a violation of the Olympic Truce—a prohibition on all forms of warfare during and a week after the competitions.
Despite hopes for a resolution before the invitation deadline, the conflict continues, and the announcement does not clarify whether the two countries will be invited later should the war conclude prior to the Paris games.
A joint statement earlier this year by 35 nations, including the United States, expressed their disagreement with the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes in the 2024 Paris Olympics. Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Denmark have already declared their intention to boycott the Games if athletes from these countries are allowed to compete.
The United Nations Human Rights Council emphasized that no individual should face discrimination based on their passport, emphasizing the importance of equal treatment. This sentiment underlines the council's letter regarding the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.
This will mark the fifth occasion that the Russian Olympic Committee faces sanctions. Previous penalties were imposed following a state-sponsored doping scandal that came to light during the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Although those sanctions were expected to expire in December 2022, the World Anti-Doping Agency announced this spring that Russia remains noncompliant.
Russia faced a partial ban from the 2016 Olympics, and since then, participating athletes have competed under the designations ROC and OAR. Notably, Russia has been stripped of 45 Olympic medals due to doping violations. Throughout the ongoing conflict, international sports competitions have adopted various approaches concerning Russian and Belarusian athletes.
The 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing did not permit their participation, and World Athletics banned them from international events last year. FIFA and UEFA suspended Russian international and club teams, and this year's Wimbledon prohibited their participation.
However, the other three tennis grand slams, including the U.S. Open, allowed their involvement. As the 2024 Paris Olympics draw nearer, the exclusion of Russia and Belarus from the invitation list demonstrates the IOC's firm stance against actions that compromise the principles of peace, fair play, and human rights.
The decision to permit individual participation by athletes under a neutral flag reflects the committee's commitment to ensuring that deserving competitors can still showcase their talents on the international stage.