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IOC releases first list of neutral athletes for Paris Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) unveiled the first wave of “Individual Neutral Athletes” (AINs) on Saturday, paving the way for participation by a select group of Russians and Belarusians in the Paris Games.

Fourteen Russians and 11 Belarusians, representing sports like cycling, gymnastics, and wrestling, were included on the initial list. However, these athletes had to jump through additional hoops, undergoing a double vetting process: first by their international federations and then by the IOC itself. This process ensured they did not actively support the war in Ukraine or have ties to their countries’ militaries.

This revised policy, a compromise after the initial complete ban on athletes from these nations, allows them to compete under the Olympic flag, not their own. This marks a significant reduction from the 330 Russians and 104 Belarusians who participated in Tokyo 2021.

Furthermore, AINs will not participate in the opening ceremony nor be included in their respective countries’ medal tables. If victorious, they will have their own neutral anthem played during medal presentations.

Interestingly, swimmer Yuliya Efimova, a three-time Olympic medalist in breaststroke, secured AIN status despite not yet achieving a qualifying time. This raises questions about potential future exceptions for high-profile athletes.

The IOC expects to release further lists for other sports in the coming days, gradually revealing the full scope of AIN participation at the Paris Olympics.

(Source: AFP)

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