Russia, Belarus Winter Paralympians spared as sport extends sanctions – Metro US

Russia, Belarus Winter Paralympians spared as sport extends sanctions

The Olympic rings are seen atop the Olympic Tower inside
The Olympic rings are seen atop the Olympic Tower inside a closed-loop area, ahead of Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing

(Reuters) -Russia has been hit with sporting sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine but its athletes gathered in Beijing for the Winter Paralympics earned a reprieve on Wednesday as they have been allowed to compete – albeit as neutrals.

The Winter Paralympics begin on Friday and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided that the Russians and Belarusians would compete but without their flags – a decision criticised by other countries.

Belarus has been a key staging area for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Germany’s chef de mission Karl Quade said he was “deeply ashamed” while Switzerland’s Paralympic Committee said “legal considerations were given priority over moral and political arguments”.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee said it was disappointed with the outcome. Canada said it wanted to review the membership status of Russia and Belarus in the IPC.

The athletes of Ukraine and Global Athlete group, an international athlete-led pressure group, were left fuming, saying many Russian Olympians and Paralympians are members of the Russian military.

“Sports administrators are choosing bloodshed and profits over principle and stakeholders,” they said in a joint statement.

The European Olympic Committees (EOC) said athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus would not participate in the 2022 Winter European Youth Olympic Festival to be held in Vuokatti, Finland, on March 20-25.

“In order to safeguard the well-being of such young athletes, as well as protect the integrity of the event, the EOC believes Russian and Belarusian athletes should not compete in Vuokatti in any capacity,” it said.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not made a commitment to lift sanctions on Russia in case of a ceasefire or peace deal, but Russian and Belarusian territories have been removed from the European tender for Olympic broadcast rights.

Since the start of what Russian President Vladimir Putin has called “a special military operation” last week, Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes have been frozen out from international sporting competitions.

Motorsport’s governing body FIA had said Russian and Belarusian drivers could still take part in its competitions in a neutral capacity but Motorsport UK banned licence holders from both countries from racing in Britain.

That decision will affect Formula One driver Nikita Mazepin who will not be able to race for the Haas F1 team in the British Grand Prix on his Russian licence.

A spokesman for the National Basketball Association (NBA) told Reuters via email that the league had suspended its business activities in Russia.


Russian companies have also had sporting organisations cut ties with them, Premier League club Everton being the latest to suspend their partnership with three Russian companies – USM Holdings, MegaFon and Yota.

All three companies are linked to billionaire and oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who was sanctioned by the European Union over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chelsea owner and fellow Russian Roman Abramovich has not been sanctioned but after his name was furiously debated in Britain’s parliament, the billionaire said he would sell the club. Chelsea are the reigning European and world champions.

Abramovich said he would not ask for loans he has made to the club – reported to total 1.5 billion pounds ($2.01 billion) – to be repaid to him and the sale would not be fast-tracked.

Premier League teams have shown solidarity with Ukraine and will continue to show their support this weekend with all 20 captains wearing special armbands in Ukrainian colours.

Former Ukraine international Yaroslav Rakitskiy severed ties with Russian champions Zenit St Petersburg after requesting the termination of his contract.

Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund withdrew former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s honorary membership as he serves as chairman of the supervisory board of Russian petroleum company Rosneft.

Russia was not spared in the virtual world either after video game developer EA Sports removed Russian and Belarusian teams from soccer games including FIFA 22.

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(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar and Rory Carroll; Editing by Pritha Sarkar and Ed Osmond)

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