Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games as neutrals, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has today confirmed.

Athletes from those countries who have qualified will be permitted to appear as neutral athletes at next year’s Olympics as long as they agree to do so without national flags, emblems, or anthems present.

The IOC banned participants from those two nations after the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine – for which Belarus provided material assistance – in February 2022, which led to an ongoing war.

The IOC has now said: "The executive board of the IOC has decided that individual neutral athletes [AINs] who have qualified through the existing qualification systems of the International Federations on the field of play will be declared eligible to compete at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in accordance with the conditions outlined.

“AINs are athletes with a Russian or Belarusian passport. The strict eligibility conditions based on the recommendations issued by the IOC executive board on March 28 2023 for international federations and international sports event organisers will be applied.”

That recommendation from March was that the neutrality option should only apply to individual athletes – whole teams representing Russia and Belarus would not be allowed to enter.

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Earlier this week, the various Olympic sports federations had asked the IOC to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals.

The IOC has attempted to explain its decision by saying: "The protection of the rights of individual athletes to participate in competitions despite the suspension of their National Olympic Committee is a well-established practice, respecting human rights.”

However, athletes who actively show support for Russia’s war effort against Ukraine will remain barred from participating, while Russian and Belarusian state officials will not be given access to the games.

The IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee in October, with immediate effect, after the latter body formally recognized regional organizations from Ukrainian territories that had been unlawfully annexed by Russia.

The move to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to compete at Paris 2024 as neutrals will doubtless draw sharp criticism from certain quarters.

Earlier this year, representatives from over 30 countries pledged support for an ongoing ban of teams and athletes from those two countries.

Ukraine had originally threatened to boycott the Paris Olympics if a total ban was not upheld, but in July its sports minister told media that it could potentially drop that threat if specific athletes from Russia and Belarus were only allowed to compete as neutrals, under strict conditions.

The Paris Olympics will be held in the French capital between July 26 and August 11 next year.