The International Olympic Committee has recommended the readmission of Russian and Belarusian athletes to international competitions as neutral athletes. According to the decision by the IOC leadership on Tuesday, athletes from both countries with connections to the military and security organs as well as teams should remain excluded. A decision on allowing Russians and Belarusians to participate in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris will only be made at a later date, emphasized IOC President Thomas Bach.

Rather, one wants to wait and see how the criteria for the return of athletes as neutral athletes to international sports competitions recommended by the IOC are met. “It is an extremely complicated situation in which something can change every day, every month,” said the German IOC boss.

According to the will of the Olympic umbrella organization, no international competitions may continue to take place in Russia and Belarus. Government officials from either country may not be invited to competitions. Athletes must do without the flag, anthem and symbols of their home countries and comply with anti-doping regulations. They are only allowed to participate in competitions if they do not actively support Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. “We stand by our Olympic values,” said Bach.

According to Rule 44.1 of the Olympic Charter, the IOC must send out invitations to the National Olympic Committees one year before the opening of the Olympic Games. July 26, 2023 would be the latest date for the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

Resistance to the IOC’s course comes mainly from Ukraine and a number of western countries. Ukraine points out that many top Russian athletes are also members of the Russian military. In a conversation between IOC chief Bach and the National Olympic Committees on the eve of the IOC deliberations, Ukrainian Sports Minister Wadym Gutzajt recalled that 262 Ukrainian athletes and coaches had already been killed in the war with Russia.

Ukraine is also threatening to boycott international competitions up to the Olympics to avoid clashing with athletes from Russia and Belarus. The German Olympic Sports Confederation supported the demands for a continuation of the ban against Russia and Belarus. However, the DOSB ruled out an Olympic boycott “for fundamental reasons”, as association head Thomas Weikert told the newspapers of the Funke media group.

In February, the sports ministers from 35 countries had already called for the further exclusion of Russian and Belarusian athletes in a joint declaration. In addition to Germany, other top sporting nations such as Great Britain, the USA, Australia, Japan and France also supported this attitude.

The IOC had recently sharply rejected these calls as inadmissible interference by politics in the interests of sport. “It is not up to governments to decide which athletes are allowed to compete in which international competitions,” the IOC said in a statement. “That would be the end of world sport as we know it today,” emphasized the Olympic umbrella organization.

The IOC is getting support from other parts of the world to lift the ban that has been in place since the beginning of the war. The return of Russians and Belarusians has many supporters, especially in Africa, Asia, South America and Oceania.