Banning Russian athletes from opening ceremony a ‘destruction’ of Olympic ideal, says Kremlin

Russiana nd Belarusian athletes have been banned from the opening ceremony of Paris 2024  (PA Archive)
Russiana nd Belarusian athletes have been banned from the opening ceremony of Paris 2024 (PA Archive)

Russia has slammed a decision by the International Olympic Committee to ban its athletes from the opening parade of the Paris Olympics in July, calling it a violation of the ideal of the Games.

“This is of course the destruction of the idea of Olympism, this is an infringement on the interests of Olympic athletes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“Of course, this is absolutely contrary to the entire ideology of the Olympic movement, and this does not paint the IOC in a good light.”

The IOC announced its decision on Tuesday, calling it a logical consequence of the fact that Russia’s athletes will be competing as neutral individuals and not as a team – a measure imposed against it following the invasion of Ukraine. The same restrictions apply to Belarus, which allowed Russia to use its territory to launch what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022.

The opening ceremony on July 26 will see thousands of athletes travel on boats down the River Seine for several miles toward the Eiffel Tower, instead of the normal parade of teams inside a stadium.

The IOC said athletes from Russia and Belarus who are approved to compete at the Olympics as neutrals will have a chance only “to experience the event” — likely watching from near the river.

It has laid out a vetting procedure for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be granted neutral status, with requirements including that they must not have publicly supported the invasion of Ukraine, or be affiliated with military or state security agencies. The IOC said it expects about 36 neutral athletes with Russian passports and 22 with Belarus passports to qualify for the Paris Games.

A decision on whether those athletes will be allowed to take part in the 11 August closing ceremony will be taken “at a later stage.”

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP