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Olympic committee asked to welcome Russian and Belarusian athletes under neutral flag

Several Olympic federations have asked the International Olympic Committee to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2023 Paris Summer Olympic Games.

An IOC communique published after the Olympic Summit on Tuesday said the federations had called on the IOC to make a decision on the matter “as soon as possible”, and that the federations’ call had the backing of national Olympic committees.

Allowing athletes from those countries to take part in the Games amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine would be highly controversial, with the British Government among those who oppose athletes from Russia or Belarus playing any part.

IOC president Thomas Bach last week indicated that a final decision on the matter would come at an IOC executive board meeting in March next year.

The communique published on Tuesday said federations had noted that athletes from those countries had competed under strict conditions of neutrality in their qualifying events “largely without incident”.

“The representatives of the international summer sports federations asked the IOC to declare eligible for participation in the Olympic Games Paris 2024 those AINs (Individual Neutral Athletes) who have qualified or will qualify on the field of play,” the communique said.

“They further asked for a decision as soon as possible to bring clarity to their entire Olympic qualification procedures and for all athletes concerned.”

Emma Terho, the chair of the IOC Athletes Commission, “expressed appreciation” for the federations’ and NOCs’ requests and “concluded that clarity around whether AINs will be able to compete in Paris and the conditions for their participation would be welcomed by athletes, as the Olympic Games Paris 2024 are approaching quickly”.

The IOC told summit participants that if such individual athletes were allowed to compete, it would be under the strict conditions of neutrality already established and that no changes to qualification systems or quota places would be permitted to accommodate such athletes.

In March the IOC published criteria under which global sports federations may consider readmitting athletes from Russia and Belarus.

The recommendations said only individual athletes from those countries should be allowed to compete – not teams.

Athletes and support personnel who actively support the war in Ukraine must also remain barred, as must any athlete or support staff member contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or security agencies.

The UK’s Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer is among those who have questioned the IOC’s neutrality criteria.

She said in April that athletes in receipt of funding from the state, or from state-controlled companies such as Russian energy giant Gazprom, were “de facto representatives of those states”.

“None of us should countenance the idea of a Ukrainian athlete being forced to share a pitch, a court, a field, a starting line with state-sponsored athletes from Russia and Belarus,” Frazer added at the time.

“The IOC must clarify their position or go back to the drawing board.”

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