Only 16 Russians and 17 Belarusians Accepted Invitations to Compete in Paris Olympics

As of Tuesday, only 16 Russian and 17 Belarusian athletes have accepted invitations to compete under a neutral banner at the Paris Olympics. This updated list, which spans ten disciplines from cycling to swimming and tennis, could change if athletes withdraw, according to an IOC spokesperson. To date, the IOC has counted 19 refusals from Russian athletes, including those who have changed their minds, and seven refusals from Belarusian athletes. Notably, the world’s third and 16th ranked women’s tennis players, Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, declined the invitation. Additionally, all four invited Russian judokas, as well as the wrestlers, have declined, with their federations criticizing the “non-sporting principle of selection” on Saturday. The Russian gymnasts had previously announced their absence.

Track and field athletes from both countries are barred by World Athletics, and the IOC has prohibited both nations from participating in any team events. These restrictions stem from the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. In an effort to gradually reintroduce Russian and Belarusian athletes, the IOC established a pathway for them to compete under a neutral banner, subject to stringent criteria. Athletes seeking invitation needed to meet specific performance standards, undergo a double verification process by both international sports federations and the IOC, and demonstrate that they did not actively support the war in Ukraine or have ties to their country’s armed forces.

Initially, the IOC predicted that 36 Russians and 22 Belarusians would likely participate in the Paris Olympics, a stark contrast to the 330 Russian and 104 Belarusian athletes who competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. The accepted athletes will compete under a green flag with the letters “AIN,” devoid of national colors, and will not be allowed to participate in the opening ceremony parade or be included in the medals table. Furthermore, a wordless anthem will be played if any of them secure a gold medal.

The accepted athletes include three Russians and one Belarusian in cycling, one from each country in trampolining and taekwondo, two Belarusians each in weightlifting, shooting, and rowing, Shamil Mamedov in wrestling, seven Russians, including Wimbledon semi-finalist Daniil Medvedev, in tennis, three Russians and a Belarusian in canoing, and one Russian and four Belarusian swimmers. The final composition of the Russian and Belarusian delegations at the Paris Olympics remains uncertain, pending potential withdrawals and further announcements from the IOC.

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