The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused countries to refuse to compete against the country in the Beijing Paralympics. Organizers were faced with threats of growing animosity and withdrawals in the Athletes Village for the Winter Paralympics, resulting in the decision that Russia and Belarus would not participate. The news came in less than 24 hours after the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) announced that it would permit Belarusians and Russians to compete when the games start later that week. However, the condition of participation was to be neutral athletes with flags, colors, and other national symbols being removed following the Ukraine invasion. The Beijing Paralympics, which comes after the Winter Olympics, will end on March 13.
“The war has now come to these Games, and behind the scenes, many governments are influencing our cherished event,” IPC President Andrew Parsons said while announcing the ban. “We were trying to protect the Games from war.”
According to Parsons, the board had underestimated the adverse effects of allowing Belarusians and Russians to participate in the Paralympics, even when allowed to participate as neutral athletes. The Athletes Village was now depicted as a tinderbox, although Parsons noted that he hoped it would be a place of harmony. Parsons added that Russians and Belarusians’ participation was not being rejected by Ukrainians alone to participate in the competition but by everyone across the board. “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.”
Latvia was the first to raise the concern following their refusal to participate in a scheduled game with Russians. The organizers noted that the climate of the Athletes Village was changing. Still, they tried to intervene until further participants heard that Russian Belarusians had to be exempted from participation in the Paralympics.
The International Paralympics Committee concluded, noting that Russian and Belarusian athletes would not participate in the event and were victims of their government actions. The threats to boycott and international pressure on the committee could not allow the committee to decide without their consideration. “To preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus,” the IPC said in a statement. Although the committee was not happy with the decision, they noted that it was the best action to take for the good of many. Besides, they needed to resolve the tassel and ensure that things worked as planned.
IPC was now on the list of other sports like track, football, hockey, basketball, and others that had imposed a blanket ban on Russians and Belarusians. Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged sporting federations across the world to exclude athletes from the two countries.
Multiple Paralympics committees worldwide, teams, and athletes had threatened not to compete if the Russian and Belarusian athletes were present, which was “jeopardizing the viability” of the Games.