Russians and Belarusians to be excluded from the Paris-2024 opening parade

On the other hand, the International Olympic Committee lifted the suspension imposed in September 2022 on Guatemala.

(AFP) The Russian and Belarusian athletes who have been allowed to participate under a neutral flag in the Paris Olympics will not permitted to participate in the parade on boats on the Seine River with the rest of the delegations during the opening ceremony on July 26, the International Olympic Committee announced on Tuesday (IOC).

This organization estimates that they take part "in an individual capacity" in the competition and therefore will not be in the parade of the national delegations but "they will have the possibility of experiencing the event," said James MacLeod, director of Olympic Solidarity of the IOC, without giving further details.

The IOC thus aligns itself with the decision taken at the beginning of March by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) ahead of the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, on August 28, and also excludes, like the IPC, taking into account the podiums of the "neutral individual athletes" (AIN) in their official medal table.

Green flag

The IOC Executive Commission approved on Tuesday a flag dedicated to those Russian and Belarusian athletes under a neutral flag, with the letters AIN on a green background. A short anthem without lyrics was also approved, which will be played in case any of them achieve an Olympic title.

These two symbols are clearly further away from any national reference than during the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games - held in 2021 because of the covid-19 pandemic - and the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, where the Russians also had to participate under a neutral flag, in that case due to sanctions related to doping scandals in their country.

Their anthem was then replaced by a musical composition for orchestra by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Moscow did not get Katiusha, a famous patriotic song often used during military parades, to be played.

Without being able to wear the colors of Russia and Belarus, the athletes from those two countries authorized to compete in Paris-2024 should not be very numerous: only 12 Russians and 7 Belarusians have qualified for the Olympic Games so far this year, among the 6,000 athletes who already have a place in the event, explained James MacLeod.

Double check

The experts of the Olympic body project, "according to the most probable scenario," that there are about 36 Russians and 22 Belarusians and that "at most" there would be 55 Russians and 28 Belarusians, according to the data of this official in his speech to the press.

Their presence will therefore be much smaller than during the Tokyo 2020 Games: then there were 330 Russians and Belarus had 104 athletes, recalled James MacLeod.

Once classified, athletes will have to overcome the obstacle of an 'Examination Committee' set up by the IOC to validate their participation, which in principle should have already been previously evaluated by each international federation.

This committee will especially examine whether they have not actively supported the Russian invasion of Ukraine and also their compliance with anti-doping obligations.

The Olympic body will then publish the list of "all neutral individual athletes" invited, as well as the technical staff.

The decision on the closing ceremony, which traditionally brings together athletes rather than delegations, with a less strict protocol, "will be made later," added James MacLeod.

The IOC lifts the sanction on Guatemala

On the other hand, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) this Tuesday lifted the suspension imposed in September 2022 on Guatemala, whose president Bernardo Arévalo celebrated that the Guatemalan flag will fly at the Paris 2024 Games.

"In the interest of Guatemala's athletes, the IOC Executive Board has decided to provisionally lift the suspension of the National Olympic Committee of Guatemala until further notice," said IOC Olympic Solidarity Director James Mcleod.

"This decision was made following the positive developments of recent weeks," Mcleod added.

On Saturday, in an extraordinary session, the General Assembly of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee ignored the president of its executive committee, Jorge Rodas, elected on October 9, 2021 in a process that was not recognized by the IOC.

The suspension of Guatemala was carried out due to the interference of the country's highest court of justice, which annulled some provisions of the statutes and regulations of the national Olympic Committee. The sanction came into effect on October 15, 2022.

So far there are 10 Guatemalan athletes that have qualified for the Paris Olympic Games, which will take place from July 26 to August 11. One of the country's main stars is the runner Luis Grijalva, who will compete in the 5,000 meters.

"This is news that should give us a lot of satisfaction, a lot of joy. The Guatemalan flag will fly in full in Paris," Arévalo said in a video broadcast on social networks.

"Our athletes are going to ensure that we hear our anthem on the podiums as many times as possible," "we thank the president of the International Olympic Committee - Thomas Bach - for these efforts, he added.

On his first tour to Europe after taking over in January, Arévalo met with Bach in Switzerland on February 21 to discuss the suspension of Guatemala.

Due to this suspension, in 2023 Guatemalan athletes competed without a flag at the Central American and Caribbean Games in San Salvador and at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.