Home » Russians Can Compete In 2024 Olympics Despite Ukraine War—But Only As Neutral Athletes

Russians Can Compete In 2024 Olympics Despite Ukraine War—But Only As Neutral Athletes


The International Olympic Committee on Friday confirmed that Russian and Belarusian citizens will be able to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris as individual neutral athletes, prohibited from sporting the flag or colors of their countries or backing the war in Ukraine—after some IOC officials suggested the Ukraine invasion could lead to an all-out ban.

Key Facts

In addition to a ban on Russian and Belarusian flags, anthems and colors, the IOC also said that athletes or support personnel who actively support the war in Ukraine will be prohibited.

In its press release, the committee says it took into account “the view of the overwhelming majority of athletes not to punish fellow athletes for the actions of their government.”

Like all Olympic athletes, the “Individual Neutral Athletes” will have to sign the “Conditions of Participation” ahead of the 2024 games in Paris, which commits them to respect “the peace mission of the Olympic Movement.”

“Only a very limited number of athletes” will ultimately be eligible to participate under the “strict eligibility” conditions the IOC has laid out, the international organization claims.

Key Background

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Olympics officials hinted at an all-out ban from the 2024 Olympics for both Russia and its ally Belarus. In March, however, the IOC first laid the groundwork for Friday’s decision, recommending that international sports federations allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to return to competition and announcing its intention to explore a pathway for them to compete in the 2024 games. At the time, the organization said that it “feels deeply for the Ukrainian people” but it “cannot prevent wars and conflicts” nor “address all the political and social challenges in our world.” Despite Friday’s announcement, Russian and Belarusian athletes will still likely be barred from competing in the 2024 Games’ biggest sport area, track and field. World Athletics, the international governing body for track and field, has maintained an all-out ban on Russia and Belarus since the war began, and has previously signaled its “unlikely” to reverse that ban.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the subsequent debate over its future in the Olympics, came just months before the country’s two-year ban from international sports due to its state-sponsored doping ring at the Sochi Olympics was set to expire.

What To Watch For

How Ukraine responds. After the board’s March announcement that it was working on a pathway for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete, Ukrainian officials threatened to boycott the Games.

Chief Critics

On X, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba condemned the IOC’s decision, claiming that the organization “essentially gave Russia the green light to weaponize the Olympics.” He argued that Russia “will use every Russian and Belarusian athlete as a weapon in its propaganda warfare.” Meanwhile, Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin called the Olympics’ continued restrictive policies on Russian athletes “discriminatory.” “They are damaging the Olympic Games themselves, and not Russian sport,” he said in comments reported by Agence France Presse.

Big Number

11. That’s how many Individual Neutral Athletes have qualified for the games so far. That includes eight Russians and three Belarusians, the IOC said. So far, more than 60 Ukrainians have qualified.

Further Reading

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