The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has announced on 26 January 2023 that Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate in this year's Asian Games despite Russia's war in Ukraine.
The International Olympic Committee had said on January 25 that the presence of Russians at next year's Paris Olympics should be "further explored" despite calls from Ukraine for them to be excluded.
The 2023 Asian Games will be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8, 2023.
Russia Seemingly Part of Asia instead of Europe
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) is based in Kuwait and stated that "The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions."
The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games.
The OCA remains on standby as the IOC continues to explore with International Federations the pathway for the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions.
On the one hand the EB re-confirmed their position on sanctions against the Russian and Belarusian State and Government; as well the solidarity of the Olympic Movement with the Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community. However on the other hand it has opened the door for Russians and Belarussians to qualify for the 202' Olympic Games.
With regard to the sanctions, participants in each of the consultation calls unanimously reaffirmed and called for a reinforcement of the sanctions already in place:
- No international sports events being organised or supported by an IF or NOC in Russia or Belarus.
- No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.
- No Russian and Belarusian Government or State official should be invited to or accredited for any international sports event or meeting.
2. With regard to the solidarity with Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community, there was also unanimous support to:
- Continue and even strengthen the full and unwavering commitment to solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes and the Ukrainian Olympic community in order to have a strong team from the NOC of Ukraine at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 and the Olympic Winter Games Milano Cortina 2026.
- Encourage all IFs, NOCs and sports event organisers to undertake all possible efforts to facilitate the training, preparation and participation of Ukrainian athletes in international sports events.
3. With regard to the individual athletes with Russian or Belarusian passports, the vast majority of the participants in each of the consultation calls expressed the following:
- Strong commitment to the unifying mission of the Olympic Movement, requesting and encouraging it to live up to this unifying mission, particularly in these times of division, confrontation and war.
- Respect the rights of all athletes to be treated without any discrimination, in accordance with the Olympic Charter. Governments must not decide which athletes can participate in which competition and which athletes cannot.
- No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport.
- A pathway for athletes’ participation in competition under strict conditions should therefore be further explored.
- Such strict conditions being:
- athletes would participate in competitions as “neutral athletes” and in no way represent their state or any other organisation in their country, as is already happening in professional leagues, particularly in Europe, the United States and Canada, and in some individual professional sports.
- only athletes who fully respect the Olympic Charter would participate. This means in particular: first, only those who have not acted against the peace mission of the IOC by actively supporting the war in Ukraine could compete. Second, only athletes who fully comply with the World Anti-Doping Code and all relevant anti-doping rules and regulations would be eligible. There must be individual checks carried out for all entered athletes.
- In the event of any athlete failing to respect the eligibility criteria or failing to respect the strict participation conditions as set out above, the IF and/or the sports event organiser concerned should immediately remove them from the competition, suspend them from further competitions and report the incident to the IOC for its consideration for further measures and sanctions.
Read full IOC report here.
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