Russians, Belarusians out of Paralympics
Published on March 3rd, 2022
Beijing, China (March 3, 2022) – Faced with threats of withdrawals and growing animosity in the Athletes Village, organizers of the 2022 Winter Paralympics today reversed course and expelled athletes from Russia and Belarus.
The about-face came less than 24 hours after the International Paralympic Committee announced it would allow Russians and Belarusians to compete when the Games open tomorrow, but only as neutral athletes with colors, flags, and other national symbols removed because of the invasion of Ukraine.
The Paralympics in Beijing, which follow the 2022 Winter Olympics, close on March 13.
“The war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many governments are having an influence on our cherished event,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said today after announcing the ban. “We were trying to protect the Games from war.”
Parsons said the IPC underestimated the negative reaction to letting Russians and Belarusians compete — even as neutral athletes. The Athletes Village, which Parsons hoped would be a place of harmony, he now depicted as a tinderbox.
“We don’t have reports of any specific incidents of aggression or anything like that,” Parsons said. “But it was a very, very volatile environment in the (Athletes) Village.
“It was a very rapid escalation which we did not think was going to happen. We did not think that entire delegations, or even teams within delegations, will withdraw, will boycott, will not participate.”
The first instance came when Latvia said its curlers would refuse to play against the Russians in a scheduled group game.
IPC spokesman Craig Spence described a stark change in just over 12 hours from athletes, administrators and politicians. He said the talk was “now we’re thinking of going home. We’re not playing.”
“That threatens the viability of this event. So that’s a huge change,” Spence said. ”The atmosphere in the Village is not pleasant.”
Parsons said he expects legal action from the Russian and Belarusian Paralympic committees, which is what he said he feared yesterday when he ruled their athletes could compete. The likely place is the Switzerland-based Court of Arbitration for Sport.
“We do believe that the Russian Paralympic Committee and the Belarussian Paralympic Committee may take legal action,” Parsons said. “But the facts that we express here led us to understand that this was the right decision to be taking.” – Full report