INTERVIEW-Paralympics-Russia decision on Paris 2024 in November but situation unchanged-IPC chief

(Reuters) - A decision on the participation of Russia and Belarus at the Paris 2024 Paralympics will be taken in November but the ongoing war in Ukraine means their ban from the Beijing 2022 winter Paralympics remains in place, the president of the International Paralympic Committee said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games - Closing Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - March 13, 2022. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons gives a speech during the closing ceremony. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were barred from competing in the Chinese capital on the eve of the Paralympics in March over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for which Belarus has been a key staging area.

IPC President Andrew Parsons said the final decision for Paris 2024 rested with the IPC General Assembly to be held some time in November but the ongoing war would make it difficult at this moment to take a different decision. A date and location of the General Assembly have not yet been announced.

“We will have to wait for extraordinary General Assembly. So we need the General Assembly to make decisions and give us a clear, clear indication of where the membership wants to go,” Parsons told Reuters in an interview.

“What I can say is that we had a very strong positioning of our own membership during the Beijing (winter Paralympics) and this to me was really impressive and really good to see how the movement will get in that direction.

“I don’t think things have really changed a lot in Ukraine. There are no signs that the situation will change. We do have three months until November. If the situation changes we can have different discussions compared to Beijing.”

Qualifiers for Paris 2024 are due to run throughout 2023 and 2024 but a decision to maintain the IPC ban would rule Russians and Belarussians out of them and so out of the Games.

This could be the second consecutive summer Paralympics that Russia will miss after the Russian team was banned from the Rio Paralympics in 2016 over doping.

“Do we want Russian and Belarus athletes competing? Our message is we want all athletes from all nations but what is happening in Ukraine is something that goes beyond that aspiration,” Parsons said.

“If our movement decided they (Russian and Belarus athletes) will not be at the Games, yes, we will miss some athletes but sport will survive.”

The Paris 2024 Paralympics are expected to be the biggest in terms of tickets with organisers planning to sell 3.4 million, some 600,000 more tickets than at London 2012 which currently holds the record.

They will also be free from COVID-19 restrictions and can bring the movement forward with spectacular locations for the sports and a new global positioning for the Paralympics as a movement.

“At a global level in the mindset of the people what I want is that after Paris it is absolutely crystal clear to everyone around the world that the Paralympics are the most transformative event,” Parsons said.

“We do believe that the Games in Paris will be more important, bigger and better than previous editions of the Paralympics.”

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Christian Radnedge