A Ukrainian journalist wearing a face mask bearing the words "No War in Ukraine" walks through the Main Media Center ahead of the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing, China
Russian and Belarusian athletes have now been banned from the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, it was confirmed on Thursday morning.
Just a day earlier, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) had said the two countries could compete but only as neutral athletes with no colours, flags or national symbols.
That sparked an “overwhelming” number of countries to contact the IPC and threaten to pull out of the games unless the decision was reversed.
“At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix,” said Andrew Parsons, IPC President. “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.
“In taking our decision yesterday we were looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement.
“We are fiercely proud of the principles and values that have made the Movement what it is today.
“However, 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.
“Yesterday we said we would continue to listen, and that is what we are doing.
“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 (National Paralympic Committee), some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.”
The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games gets underway on 4 March.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had urged sports authorities to exclude Russian athletes from international events but left the final decision to individual governing bodies.
Russia has already been barred from competing in a wide range of sports, including football, hockey, rugby, ice skating, skiing, and some tennis events.
On Thursday, Formula One terminated its contract with the Russian Grand Prix, stating that the country would “not have a race” in the future.
F1 had already cancelled this year’s race, which had been scheduled to be held in Sochi on September 25.
But following further discussions this week, F1 went a step further and ended a contract that ran until 2025.
Four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and several other drivers said last week they would not race in Russia even if F1 had decided to host races there.
UEFA has also moved to ban Belarus from hosting international football matches and could expel the country from European competitions.
Russian clubs and national teams had already been banned from FIFA and UEFA competitions “until further notice”. Moscow has appealed the decision.
Although Belarus was not in line to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, they were due to host Iceland on 7 April for a qualifying match for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
“The UEFA executive committee will convene further extraordinary meetings, on a regular ongoing basis where required, to reassess the legal and factual situation as it evolves,” a statement read.
Additional sources • AP