Russia’s Olympic chief has criticized organizers for rowing back on a decision to allow up to 500 Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China. The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) voted in July to allow the nations’ athletes to take part as neutrals at the Sept 23 to Oct 8 Games. In early September, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed that the nations would not participate for “technical” reasons.
The decision was a significant setback for Russia, which has been banned from many international competitions since Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The OCA vote was a step toward allowing Russian athletes to qualify for the Paris 2024 Olympics. However, a path to qualification remains blocked by international sports federations, which the IOC advises to limit their participation to “neutral” athletes.
On Saturday, OCA Acting President Randhir Singh indicated that the door was open for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in future events organized by his organization. But he added that it was up to the national Olympic committees of those countries to decide whether to participate.
Pozdnyakov said he was surprised by the OCA’s position, adding that organizers had stonewalled the body. He also questioned how it was possible to hold the Games in an environment where Russians were discriminated against.
The ROC is leading a global campaign to pressure international sports bodies to lift the ban on Russia and Belarus. Its top athletes, including Olympic gold medallists Tatyana Zhukova and Maxim Grinkov, have backed the campaign. Those behind the campaign say they have been “stonewalled” by several sports governing bodies, including the IOC and the International Association of Athletics Federations.
As a result of the ban, Russia and Belarus have been relegated to the second tier of international events, with athletes forced to pay high sporting costs as they seek to qualify for the Olympics in Paris. The relegation also limits their opportunity to qualify in their home cities. It creates a broader path for American, Chinese, Japanese, and other rivals to challenge them for glory at the games.
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