Athletes from Russia and Belarus had already traveled to Beijing when they were banned from competing in the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games following an IPC reversal
Russian Paralympians who were unable to compete at the Beijing Winter Games have returned home as heroes.
Amid the country’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee [IPC] were pressured to impose a blanket ban on all competitors from Russia and Belarus, an idea they initially refused, deciding instead that they could participate as neutrals.
However, the move was widely reviled and ahead of the opening ceremony last Friday, IPC President Andrew Parsons announced that the organization had made a U-turn and confirmed that athletes from both countries would be banned from participation.
During the ceremony itself, Parsons used his speech to voice his opposition to the conflict, saying, “The 21st century is a time of dialogue and diplomacy, not war and hate.”
The two teams were already in Beijing when this decision was taken, but on Sunday the Russians returned to Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow to a huge ovation from the compatriots who had come to welcome them home.
Fans chanted “Russia, Russia” and sang songs as many held up signs of support, waved national flags and photographed the 72-person team as they walked through the airport.
“I hope it won’t happen again, for us it was a shock. For us, sport is not just a competition, but a way of life,” said an athlete, addressing the crowd .
“It inspires us and it’s an opportunity to realize our potential. To deny us that is like denying ourselves breathing.”
Also in the footage, which was posted on Twitter by Reuters Sports, a fan said: “We came here to support our athletes. We want to fight against the injustice done to them because they are Russian citizens.”
Last week, Russia’s state-run Tass news agency said the athletes would appeal the decision, but on Friday the Russian Paralympic Committee said it was unable to do so due to the rules of the ‘CPI.
Tass also quoted Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin as saying the decision to exclude his country’s team was a “gross violation of athletes’ rights and a manipulation of the Olympic Charter and the values of human life in the pursuit of political objectives”.
The IPC is just one of many sports organizations to impose sanctions on Russia since its invasion began.