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Russians, Belarusians barred from Paralympics Opening Ceremony

Athletes from Russia and Belarusia who are competing under a neutral banner at the Paralympics in Paris will not be permitted to take part in the opening or closing ceremonies, according to guidelines issued by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) on Wednesday.

The Russian and Belarusian NPCs were both suspended following the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 but their sportspeople are permitted to compete as neutrals providing they have not shown any support for the war. 

However, the IPC has stopped short of allowing the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA) to participate in the two ceremonies.

“As the athletes will participate in an individual and neutral capacity, they will not march in the opening ceremony on 28 August or have a flagbearer at the closing ceremony on 8 September,” the IPC said in a press release.

Nor will the athletes be permitted any show of nationality, from symbols to anthems, should they win a gold medal. 

In that event, the neutral flag — white with black lettering spelling out NPA — will be raised while the Paralympic anthem will play in the stadium. Podium results will not be recorded on the official medals table.

The Russian Paralympic Committee, who may send as many as 125 athletes, hit out at the guidelines, calling them “discriminatory”. 

“To deny athletes the right to demonstrate that they come from a certain country or to celebrate victory when their country’s anthem is played is to deny them the right to a national identity,” the Russians said in a statement. 

“This is unfair to Russian athletes and puts them at a disadvantage compared to athletes from other countries.”

The International Olympic Committee told AFP it will announce “in due course” whether it will apply similar guidelines to Russians taking part in the Paris Olympics.

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