Russian, Belarusian athletes to be excluded from Olympics opening ceremony, IOC announces

As tensions between Russian and Belarusian athletes and the International Olympic Committee continue to rise ahead of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris, the IOC announced Tuesday that neutral athletes with passports from those countries will not be able to participate in the Opening Ceremony parade.

The IOC’s Executive Board agreed on a number of measures involving Individual Neutral Athletes (AINs) ahead of the Olympics, which includes “strict eligibility conditions” for those athletes competing as individuals.

Olympic logo in Paris ahead of the 2024 Summer games.  (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard, File)

The board established Tuesday that “AINs will not participate in the parade of delegations (teams) during the Opening Ceremony, since they are individual athletes,” but added that they will be able to “experience the event” which is slated for July 26.

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Guidelines for the closing ceremony were not yet established.

The board also established that Russian and Belarusian athletes competing as neutrals will be represented by a specific flag with their designation and an anthem with no lyrics, which was “provided solely for this purpose.”

Any medals won by neutral athletes will also not be counted as a collective group in the overall medals table.

Reporters work outside the headquarters of the Paris Olympic organizers, Tuesday, June 20, 2023 in Saint-Denis, outside Paris. (AP Photo/Thomas Padilla)

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Russia and Belarus are barred from team sports at the Olympics because of the war in Ukraine and must undergo a two-step vetting procedure for individual athletes from those countries to be granted neutral status.

Those athletes must first be approved by the governing body of their individual sport and then by an IOC-appointed review panel. Neutral athletes must not have publicly supported the invasion of Ukraine, or be affiliated with military or state security agencies.

The decision follows an earlier warning from the IOC to other sports governing bodies not to participate in the Vladimir Putin-sanctioned Friendship Games — a potential rival event of the Olympics.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach speaks at the opening of the executive board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), at the Olympic House, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, March 19, 2024.  (Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP)

“The IOC strongly urges all stakeholders of the Olympic movement and all governments to reject any participation in, and support of, any initiative that intends to fully politicize international sport,” a statement read.

The event, which was launched in response to the isolation Russian and Belarusian athletes faced after the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, will pay tens of millions of dollars in prize money and is scheduled to begin just weeks after the Closing Ceremony in Paris.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Paulina Dedaj is a Sports Reporter for Fox News Digital.

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