Asian Games-OCA paves way for Russian, Belarusian athletes to compete at Asian Games

BANGKOK : Athletes from Russia and Belarus will be permitted to compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games to help them earn points to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) voted on Saturday that as many as 500 athletes from the two countries could compete under a neutral flag, but will not be permitted to win medals at the Sept. 28-Oct. 8 Games.

Registering an international result, however, could help pave their way to Paris.

In January, OCA acting president Randhir Singh told reporters “They won’t interfere in our medal system or Asian quota for the Olympic Games.”

Russian and Belarusian athletes have been largely banned from international competition since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been under immense pressure from governments, including the United States, Britain and France, to exclude athletes from the two countries, and Saturday’s news will be met with staunch criticism from opponents.

The OCA had partly opened the door for Russian and Belarusian athletes to qualify for Paris when its Athletes Forum endorsed the principles behind it in March.

The IOC said in January it was open to including the athletes from the countries in the Olympics as neutrals, and suggested Asia as a possible qualifying pathway to circumvent bans from European regional competitions.

The Asian Games had been postponed a year due to COVID-19.

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