Paralympics Reverse Decision to Allow Russian and Belarusian Participation

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The International Paralympic Committee has made a u-turn on yesterday's decision to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to compete in the upcoming games.

Yesterday the IPC announced that athletes from the two countries would be allowed to compete as neutrals.

The announcement provoked an immediate backlash, with many athletes threatening to pull out of the games which begin in Beijing on Friday.

The president of the IPC, Andrew Parsons, had cited the committee's policy of political neutrality but has since backtracked.

"In taking our decision yesterday, we were looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement," he said on Thursday morning. "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," he continued. "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 Committees), 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."

Parsons apologised to the athletes now banned from the games.

"To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce," he said. "You are victims of your governments’ actions. 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."

The reversal of the IPC's decision was welcomed by Paralympics Ireland.

"Paralympics Ireland welcomes the decision of the International Paralympic Committee to exclude athletes representing National Paralympic Committee’s from Russia and Belarus from the Winter Paralympic Games," PI said in a statement. "Excluding any athlete from Paralympic competition is an extremely difficult decision to take at any time. We commend the governing board of the International Paralympic Committee for listening to the athletes, NPC’s and stakeholders and reaching this decision today. We hope that the athletes competing at the Winter Paralympic Games have a safe and rewarding experience. Our thoughts remain with the people of Ukraine at this very difficult time."

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