3rd March 2022
The International Paralympic Committee has reversed its position after threats of mass boycotts from other countries. The decision comes 24 hours after the IPC announced athletes from the two countries could compete as neutrals. Russia has condemned the decision and says it will take legal action. UPDATED
The dramatic U-turn comes after several National Paralympic Committees and Governments, including the UK, criticised the IPC for allowing Russia and Belarus to participate in the Beijing Paralympics.
The IPC said multiple teams and athletes in Beijing were now threatening not to compete, jeopardising the viability of the Games.
It said the situation in the athlete villages was escalating and ensuring the safety of athletes had become untenable.
It held a specially convened meeting at which its earlier decision was reversed.
Para athletes from Russia and Belarus will now no longer be competing.
The decision has been welcomed by the British Paralympic Association.
Image c/o British Paralympic Association
“The British Paralympic Association welcome the IPC decision to refuse athlete entries from the Russian Paralympic Committee and National Paralympic Committee Belarus for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games,” it said in a statement.
“Given the horror of what is happening in Ukraine, we believe they have made the correct decision for these Games and is in line with the values of the Paralympic movement.
“ParalympicsGB athletes can now focus on the competition for which they have trained so hard and their welfare has been at the forefront of our thinking. We continue to express our solidarity with the people of Ukraine and our friends at NPC Ukraine.”
The UK government’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Nadine Dorries, said she was very pleased at the news.
She had been highly critical of the original decision of the IPC.
The International Paralympics Committee President, Andrew Parsons, explained its change of stance.
“At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix,” he said.
“However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many Governments are having an influence on our cherished event.”
He added: “What is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games.”
Logo c/o International Paralympic Committee
Russia has called the move “a disgrace” and will take the issue to court.
“This situation is definitely monstrous,” said Dimitry Peskov, the press secretary for the Russian President Vladimir Putin.
It was reported by Russia’s official state news agency TASS.
“This is of course a disgrace for the International Paralympic Committee as I cannot find other words of describing it.
“We certainly condemn the International Paralympic Committee for this decision.”
“We are currently in work to establish our legal position to file lawsuits on the protection of our athletes’ rights, against the discrimination of athletes based on their ethnicity and the use of sports as a tool of a political pressure,” saidRussian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin .
“Today’s decision to bar our team is a blatant violation of athletes’ rights and a manipulation of the Olympic Charter and human lives’ values in pursuit of political goals.”
Andrew Parsons said the IPC had listened to its members.
“In the last 12 hours an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us and been very open, for which I am grateful. They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.
“Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable.”
A total of 83 Para athletes will be impacted by the decision – 71 from Russia and 12 from Belarus.
The IPC said it was very sorry they were being affected by the decisions of their governments but if they remained at the Games, nations were likely to withdraw.
“I hope and pray that we can get back to a situation when the talk and focus is fully on the power of sport to transform the lives of persons with disabilities, and the best of humanity,” Andrew Parsons said.
Ukraine’s Paralympic team of 20 athletes and 9 guides, have made it to Beijing and will be competing.
We’ll be updating this report with reaction so do check back.