IOC's Bold Move: Russians and Belarusians Ousted from Olympic Opening

Russian and Belarusian athletes will not be allowed to participate in the traditional parade at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Paris, the International Olympic Committee announced today

by Sededin Dedovic
IOC's Bold Move: Russians and Belarusians Ousted from Olympic Opening
© Cameron Spencer / Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) recently made a decision that will surely cause discussions and controversies in sports circles around the world. Namely, Russian and Belarusian athletes will not have the privilege of participating in the traditional parade at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Paris.

This decision, announced today, caused different reactions among athletes, officials and sports fans. However, the relative majority supports this decision of the IOC. Then the question arises, what is the purpose of influencing the parade when it will not be possible to wear the national emblems of Russia and Belarus.

The opening ceremony of the Games, which is scheduled for July 26, is traditionally a spectacular event that gathers thousands of athletes from all over the world. It is usually held at the stadium, where athletes march under the flags of their countries, enjoying the common spirit of sports competition.

However, this time will be different. Instead of the classic defile, the athletes will sail in boats down the river Seine, a few kilometers all the way to the famous Eiffel Tower. The city of Paris has already started the largest cleaning of the Seine riverbed in the last 100 years, and it will reportedly be possible to swim along the entire length of the watercourse that flows through Paris.

This decision by the IOC came after the Paralympic Committee had already banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in the opening ceremony, which will take place on August 28. It is obvious that the political context, especially the situation in Ukraine, has a strong influence on such decisions.

Due to the war in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, participation in team sports at the Olympic Games in Paris is prohibited. So athletes from these two countries will be able to compete only in individual sports and without national symbols.

French Elite acrobatic team Patrouille de France flyes over the Eiffel Tower during the Olympic Games handover ceremony on Augus© Aurelien Meunier / Getty Images

The IOC has set strict criteria so that individual athletes from these countries can obtain the status of neutral competitor.

First, approval must be obtained by the governing body of their individual sport, and then by a review committee appointed by the IOC itself. Neutral athletes must not publicly support the war in Ukraine, nor be associated with military or government agencies.

However, it remains unclear whether membership in a Russian military club will be a reason for denial of neutral status. According to the latest information, it is expected that around 36 neutral athletes with Russian passports and 22 athletes with Belarusian passports will participate in the Games in Paris.

However, a decision on whether they will be allowed to participate in the closing ceremony, which is scheduled for August 11, will be made later, but there are strong assumptions that this too will be denied. It should be noted that all medals won by neutral athletes will not be counted as part of the collective group in the total table of medals.

This can be a contentious issue, as some will argue that every athlete represents their country, regardless of their status. It is interesting that neutral sportsmen will be represented under the flag of the color jade (green) at the medal ceremony.

Also, the hymn that will be intoned will not have a text, but will be specially written for this occasion. With these incredible exceptions, these Olympics threaten to be exciting before they even begin. This decision of the IOC caused different reactions around the world.

While some support the decision as an example of political neutrality and focus on the very essence of sport, others consider it excessive and unnecessary, but they are in a large minority. Many are wondering if the exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes from the opening ceremony is the right way to express political views.

The question arises as to whether this will have a negative impact on the atmosphere of togetherness and fair play among athletes. It is very difficult to implement these sanctions when it comes to such a sensitive matter as sport, which unites the whole world and is one of the few common points of global interest.

On the other hand, there are those who support the IOC's decision, arguing that athletes should be spared political tensions and focus on sports competition. The question is whether this decision is necessary in order to preserve the reputation of the Olympic Games as a manifestation of peace and tolerance.

In any case, this situation raises important questions about the role of sport in the modern world and the relationship between sport and politics. Many today believe that sport should be apolitical and focus exclusively on competition, but it seems that in today's geopolitical situation it is impossible to separate sport from political realities and that athletes have a responsibility to express themselves on socio-political issues.

In any case, the decision of the International Olympic Committee will leave a deep mark in the history of the Olympic Games. We will soon see if this was just an unnecessary politicization of such an important sporting event.