In a statement on the International Paralympic Committee’s (IPC) website published on March 2, 2022, the IPC shares their “sympathies for the Ukrainian athletes” and their “delight that the full delegation of the Ukrainian Paralympic Team arrived safely in Beijing.” They also emphasized that Russia needed to be held accountable for the breach of the Olympic Truce, an old Greek tradition dating back to the eighth century B. C., ensuring safe and peaceful games and protecting the interests of the athletes.
“The Olympic Games show the world how to compete peacefully. They show us that, despite all our differences, it is possible for humankind to live together in peace, respect and harmony,” said Thomas Bach, International Olympic Committee President and Olympic champion. Through the Paralympic Truce, the IOC wants to “offer humanitarian support in countries at war; and more generally create a window of opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation.”
With the invasion of Ukraine, the IPC had to make a decision whether to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Paralympic Winter Games or not. To the shock of their social media followers, the IPC allowed athletes from Russia and Belarus to participate as neutrals at the games. Those athletes would compete under the Paralympic flag and would not be included in the medal ceremony.
According to the IPC, these were the “strongest possible actions” that were in line with their core principles of political neutrality and impartiality. Additionally, they justified their measures with the rules and regulations that don’t require members of the IPC to comply with the Olympic Truce. With this statement, the IPC did not follow the lead of other sports organizations, such as FIFA/UEFA, who suspended Russian clubs and national teams from all competitions.
IPC’s statement to let athletes from Russia and Belarus compete was met with severe criticism from people with disabilities across the globe. Twitter users argued that by allowing those athletes to take part in the Paralympics, the IPC would be supporting Putin’s actions. Some tweets showed pictures of bombed and destroyed cities in Ukraine; others used the Paralympics’ logo and added a bloody hand on top of it. Many tweets called for a boycott of the games as a consequence, with only a few agreeing with the IPC’s decision.
After continuing public pressure, on March 3, the IPC reversed their position, banning athletes from Russia and Belarus from the games to “ensure the safety of athletes” after the “situation in the athlete villages [was] escalating.” Andrew Parsons, IPC President stated, “In the last 12 hours an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us and been very open, for which I am grateful. They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.”
Consequently, athletes from Russia and Belarus have been excluded from the Bejing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.