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The IOC says it will not invite Russia and Belarus to the 2024 Olympics in Paris

The Russian national flag, right, flies after it is hoisted next to the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 23, 2014.
Matthias Schrader
The Russian national flag, right, flies after it is hoisted next to the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Feb. 23, 2014.

The teams from Russia and Belarus will not receive formal invitations to participate in next year's Olympic Games in Paris because of the two countries' aggression against Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee announced in a statement on Thursday.

The decision means that when invitations go out to more than 200 countries later this month, a year before the start of the Olympic games as per ritual, Russia and Belarus will not be included.

The IOC's condemnation of Russia and Belarus's participation in "the senseless war" in Ukraine was first issued in February 2022, soon after the full-scale ground invasion began.

The organization soon followed with this resolution:

"In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions."

However, even though the two countries will not receive invitations to participate as teams, individual athletes holding passports from Russia or Belarus may not be banned from Paris next year.

"The IOC will take this decision at the appropriate time, at its full discretion, and without being bound by the results of previous Olympic qualification competitions," the committee wrote Thursday on its website.

In March, the IOC recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes could be allowed to participate as long as they did so as "individual neutral athletes."

The consideration to still allow athletes holding Russian and Belarusian passports to participate in international competitions prompted the Ukrainian government to announce that its athletes should boycott competitions with Russian and Belarusian participants — including the Olympics.

More than 260 Ukrainian athletes have died since Russia's full-scale ground invasion in February 2022, Reuters reported Ukraine's sports minister Vadym Guttsait saying in April.

"[Russian athletes] all support this war and attend events held in support of this war," Guttsait said.

No official decision that Ukraine will boycott the 2024 games has been announced.

Russia has called the IOC's recommendations on its athletes discriminatory.

"Such recommendations were characterized as containing elements of discrimination, which is unacceptable," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according ESPN. "We will continue to defend the interests of our athletes in every possible way."

There is plenty of precedent for excluding certain countries from participating in the Olympic Games. South African was excluded in the 1970s and 80s because of apartheid and United Nations sanctions, according to the IOC's website. The former Yugoslavia was also excluded because of UN sanctions in 1992 and Japan and Germany were not invited to participate in the Olympics following World War II.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ashley Westerman
Ashley Westerman is a former producer who occasionally directed the show. She joined the staff in June 2015 and produced a variety of stories, including a coal mine closing near her hometown, the 2016 Republican National Convention and the Rohingya refugee crisis in southern Bangladesh. During her time at NPR, Ashley also produced for All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. She also occasionally reported on both domestic and international news.