Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate as neutrals at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said on Wednesday.
The decision, which comes as the sporting world continues to impose sanctions on Russia and Belarus following the former’s invasion of Ukraine, means athletes from the two countries will compete under the Paralympic flag and will not be included in the medal table.
The Russian delegation must cover the Russian Paralympic Committee symbol on their uniforms in all official ceremonies and sporting competitions, the IPC said. The Belarus delegation must also cover the Belarus flags on their uniforms.
In a statement, IPC president Andrew Parsons said: “The IPC and wider Paralympic Movement is greatly concerned by the gross violation of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments in the days prior to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.”
“The IPC Governing Board is united in its condemnation of these actions and was in agreement that they cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed.”
The Olympic Truce dates back almost 3,000 years to the early days of the ancient games when the leaders of three Greek city-states agreed to limit their battles. In modern times, the Truce has been invoked as a universal goal by the UN regularly since 1993.
On January 28, UN Secretary-General António Guterres asked nations around the world to lay down their weapons and observe an Olympic Truce from seven days before the Beijing Games until seven days after the end of the Paralympic Games.
“What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules,” added Parsons.
“Post-Beijing 2022, we will also take measures with our 206 member organisations to determine whether any breaches of the Olympic Truce for future Paralympic Games could lead to the possible suspension or termination of an NPC.”
On Wednesday, Russia continued to ramp up assaults on key Ukrainian cities with attacks on multiple fronts, while Belarus remains a key military ally of Russia and is being used as a launch point for troops into Ukraine.
Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) “recommended” that Russian and Belarusian athletes are banned from competing in international sporting events, but added that athletes or teams should compete instead as neutrals where this would not be possible due to “short notice for organisational or legal reasons.”
The IPC said it will host an “extraordinary” general assembly in 2022, during which members will be invited to vote on whether “to suspend or terminate the membership of the Russian Paralympic Committee and Belarus Paralympic Committee” and “whether ensuring compliance with the Olympic Truce should be a membership requirement.”
The IPC also said that it will not hold any events in Russia or Belarus “until further notice.”
The opening ceremony of the Paralympics takes place on Friday before official competition begins on Saturday.