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Neutral athletes from Russia, Belarus will be invited to Opening Ceremony, not in Parade of Nations

Individual Neutral Athlete Olympic Flag

Sara Bei of Stanford placed 11th in the women’s 5,000 meters in 15:52.43 in the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials at Cal State Sacramento’s Hornet Stadium on Monday, July 12, 2004. (Photo by Kirby Lee/WireImage)

International Olympic Committee

Individual neutral athletes from Russia and Belarus who are approved to compete at the Paris Olympics will be invited to the July 26 Opening Ceremony but will not be part of the Parade of Nations on the Seine River.

“We will invite them and will be very pleased to have them experience the event,” James Macleod, the IOC director of Olympic Solidarity and National Olympic Committee relations, said Tuesday. “The one element that they will not be doing is just the parade of the delegations of the boats in the Seine. The rest of it, we will make sure that they can enjoy the experience.”

The IOC said not having individual neutral athletes in the Parade of Nations “is the same scenario” used at the 1992 Barcelona Games for 58 independent athletes from the former Yugoslavia. At that time, the United Nations Security Council had placed a ban on Yugoslav teams competing internationally because of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

For the Paris Olympic Closing Ceremony, a decision on individual neutral athlete participation will be made at a later date. The Closing Ceremony does not have a traditional Parade of Nations. Rather, all athletes enter together.

The IOC said Tuesday that, so far, 12 athletes from Russia and seven from Belarus have qualified for the Olympics out of 6,000 quota places awarded globally.

IOC experts project that most likely 36 athletes from Russia and 22 from Belarus will qualify for the Paris Games with a maximum of 54 and 28, respectively, according to a press release.

From there, the qualified athletes will go through an eligibility review to determine whether they will be approved to participate in the Olympics as individual neutral athletes. They will not be allowed to compete in team sports.

Athletes who actively support the war or are contracted to the Russian or Belarusian military or national security agencies will not be eligible.

The IOC announced a three-person panel of IOC members to determine individual neutral athlete eligibility before the July 8 entry deadline: IOC vice president Nicole Hoevertsz (panel chair), retired basketball player Pau Gasol (IOC Ethics Commission rep) and Ryu Seung-Min (IOC Athletes’ Commission rep).

The approved athletes will compete under the AIN acronym under a green-and-white flag and this lyric-less anthem that was independently produced by the IOC.