IOC gives green light for Russia, Belarus

The International Olympic Committee has been criticised after it further paved the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the 2024 Olympic Games.

Last month, the Olympic Council of Asia gave its blessing for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in events under its jurisdiction in the run-up to the Paris 2024 games.

This was given the green light by IOC executive board members on Wednesday after consultation calls were held last week.

Discussions on Wednesday focused on three key areas and among them was the possible access to sports competitions for individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports.

It was agreed by the IOC that "no athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport" but that all those involved would compete as "neutral athletes", assuming they fully respected the Olympic Charter and had not actively supported the war in Ukraine.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the IOC reacted with a recommendation that athletes from Russia and Belarus be barred from international sports competition but that is no longer the case almost 12 months later.

Reacting to Wednesday's announcement, a joint-statement from Ukrainian Athletes and Global Athlete was critical of the IOC's decision.

"Today's decision to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in qualifiers to attend the 2024 Paris Olympic Games sends a message to the world that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) endorses Russia's brutal war and invasion of Ukraine," the joint statement read.

"The return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competition, especially the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, will see the Russian state use athletes once more to bolster the war effort and distract from the atrocities in Ukraine on one of the biggest multi-sport stages in the world.

"The suspension of both Russian and Belarusian athletes and their sporting officials must be fully reinstated until Russia withdraws completely from Ukraine."

While recognising that athletes "are not the powerbrokers who are responsible for this war", the statement added, "The cost on Russian and Belarusian athletes pales in comparison to the atrocities experienced by every single Ukrainian".

The executive board of the IOC did agree on Wednesday that no international sports events could be held in Russia or Belarus while government or state officials from the two countries would not be invited to any sports events or meetings.