Scale of situation led to ban on Russian, Belarusian athletes, says IPC chief

Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - March 4, 2022. International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons gives a speech during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Peter Cziborra

BEIJING, March 12 (Reuters) - International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons said on Saturday that he doesn't want politics to drive sport but the scale of the war in Ukraine forced the body to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Beijing Winter Games.

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

The IPC had earlier said they could participate as neutrals but had to reverse their decision only a day later due to threats of a boycott by other countries. read more

"No one can be happy with the outcome. Not allowing them to compete for any reason is not good, not positive," Parsons told reporters.

"But our movement was asking us for more. It was absolutely imperative that we changed our decision ... we don't like when politics gets mixed with sport, but we have our limits and we had to listen to our members.

"We don't want governments to influence our decisions ... but it was impossible to separate sport from the rest of the world due to the magnitude of the situation in Europe."

Parsons added that their absence may have impacted the quality of competition in some events at the Games but it was a decision taken keeping in mind the interest of athletes from other nations.

"Maybe the results here would have been different (with Russian and Belarusian athletes) ... but in terms of the environment, it was the best decision. It was becoming volatile."

The Russian Paralympic Committee last week said they would not appeal the ban at the Court of Arbitration for Sport following legal advice, but the IPC said they may face legal action after the Games, which close on Sunday. read more

Parsons made an impassioned call for peace at the opening ceremony last week, parts of which were not translated into Chinese for viewers of state broadcaster CCTV. read more

The IPC reaffirmed that they had sought an explanation from CCTV but were yet to get a response.

Reporting by Dhruv Munjal in Beijing; Editing by Stephen Coates

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