AP – In a stunning reversal, Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from the Winter Paralympic Games for their countries’ roles in the war in Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said yesterday in Beijing.
The reversal comes less than 24 hours after the IPC announced it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, but only as neutral athletes with colours, flags and other national symbols removed.
The IPC received immediate criticism for its initial decision. It was termed a betrayal that sent the wrong message to Russia’s leadership.
The IPC also said it was evident that many athletes would refuse to compete against Russians or Belarusians, creating chaos for the Paralympics and damaging the reputation.
IPC President Andrew Parsons, announcing the initial measures early yesterday in a Beijing news conference, sympathised openly with the Ukrainian people but said his actions were constrained by his organisation’s rules and the fear of legal action. Parsons said almost the opposite in announcing his reversal.
“In the last 12 hours, an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us,” Parsons said in a statement.
“They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences.”
The Winter Paralympics open today and close on March 13.