A decision on whether to let Russian and Belarusian athletes compete at the Paris Olympics next year has been postponed.
Competitors from both countries have been banned since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
But on Tuesday (March 28), the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced a softening of its stance, recommending that Russian and Belarussian athletes be allowed to compete in international events as neutrals.
Teams from Russia and Belarus are still banned, as are any athletes supporting the war or contracted to military or national security agencies.
But the IOC stopped short of applying the recommendation to the Olympic Games in Paris next summer.
“The IOC will take this decision at the appropriate time at its full discretion,” said Thomas Bach, IOC president, insisting that the organisation was not kicking the can down the road and waiting for the war to end.
In a statement, the IOC expressed empathy for the Ukrainian people.
“The Olympic Movement continues to make its contributions to any peace-building efforts. It feels deeply for the Ukrainian people and the Ukrainian Olympic community, whose pain and suffering are beyond imagination.
“It was also emphasised that the Olympic Games cannot prevent wars and conflicts. Nor can they address all the political and social challenges in our world. This is the realm of politics.
“But the Olympic Games can set an example for a world where everyone respects the same rules and one another. They can inspire us to solve problems by building bridges, leading to better understanding among people. They can open the door to dialogue and peace-building in ways that exclusion and division do not.”