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Russia and Belarus banned from Paralympics after IPC U-turn

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has today (Thursday) banned Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing at the Beijing Paralympic Games, less than 24 hours after announcing that they could participate as neutral competitors.

The Games are due to begin tomorrow and the IPC had announced yesterday that it would allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under the Paralympic flag and the Paralympic anthem. The decision was made following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last week.

However, following backlash from national Paralympic bodies around the world, the IPC has now decided to refuse athlete entries from Russia and Belarus. The IPC took the decision following a specially convened meeting.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said today: “In taking our decision yesterday we were looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement. We are fiercely proud of the principles and values that have made the Movement what it is today.

“However, what is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games. Yesterday we said we would continue to listen, and that is what we are doing.

“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.”

A host of international sporting bodies, including the International Olympic Committee, FIFA and UEFA, have banned Russian teams and athletes, while also cancelling scheduled events in the country.

Chelsea

In other news, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has announced plans to sell the Premier League club.

At the weekend, Chelsea released a statement announcing that Abramovich had given the “stewardship and care” of the club to its charitable foundation but the club is now officially up for sale.

Abramovich said he will not be asking for any loans to be repaid and has instructed his team to set up a charitable foundation where all net proceeds from the sale will be donated to the victims of the war in Ukraine.

Abramovich has placed the club up for sale after the European Union issued sanctions against Russian oligarchs in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this week, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss said that he had been approached to buy the club from Abramovich.

Hartwall Arena

Meanwhile, beverages company Hartwall has ended its naming-rights deal with the Helsinki Areena, which is part-owned by Russians on the international sanctions list.

The Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena, which has been sponsored by the company for over 20 years.

Kalle Järvinen, chief executive of Hartwall, said: “The war started by Russia is an absurd and reprehensible act. We no longer engage in marketing cooperation with (venue owner) Helsinki Halli Oy due to the war in Russia. In the future, the arena will not bear Hartwall’s name, and the Hartwall logo has been removed from the arena’s wall.”

The arena has a capacity of over 13,000 for ice hockey games and serves as the home venue of Helsinki-based club Jokerit. The arena will also be a host venue for this year’s IIHF World Championship alongside Tampere’s Nokia Arena.

Image: Hong Jiang on Unsplash