— Published 15 February 2023

Asian Games invite Russian athletes to compete

That’s hardly a scoop. It will not surprise anyone in the Olympic movement. But, until the last moment, it remained uncertain. The agency TASS revealed it Tuesday, February 14: the first invitations were launched to Russia by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to participate in the Asian Games 2023 in the Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The process is set in motion and nothing can stop it to lead the Russian athletes to the Paris 2024 Games.

These first invitations had been suggested last month by the OCA after the Olympic Summit of the IOC in Lausanne. The Asian organization had offered to play the pilot fish in the process of reintegration of the Russian and Belarusian athletes in the international competitions, wished and expressed by the Olympic body.

The IOC had welcomed the proposal of the OCA, but the calendar remained unclear. It is not any more. Two Russian sports federations, at least, have received an official invitation from the OCA to participate in the Asian Games 2023 in Hangzhou (September 23 to October 8).

Mikhail Mamiashvili, the president of the Russian Wrestling Federation (RWF), told the TASS agency: “We have received an invitation and are currently in talks regarding this issue.

The Russian leader did not expand on the nature of the exchanges with the OCA, but it is easy to guess that they are essentially about the conditions set by the IOC for a Russian participation. The neutrality of the flag and colors, the absence of anthem in case of victory, but probably even more the choice of Russian athletes invited to return to the international scene. The IOC has explained several times that it only wants to reinstate athletes opposed to the war in Ukraine, a condition condemned by the Moscow regime.

According to Mikhail Mamiashvili, a Russian team has also been invited to compete in the World Cup of freestyle wrestling clubs, scheduled for February 17-18 in Tehran, Iran. “Our team is set to take off to Tehran on February 15” he explained. The whole delegation includes 16 people, including our top-notch wrestlers….”

The Asian Swimming Federation has sent us an official letter inviting to file an application for the participation in the 2023 Asian Games,” said the Russian leader to the agency TASS. Although the competition at the issue has no Olympic qualifiers status, we are interested in taking part in this tournament, because our athletes need practice.”

At the end of January, the OCA said in a statement that it wanted to initiate the movement by opening the doors of its events to Russian and Belarusian athletes. “The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions,” the statement explained. The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games.

Obviously, the continental organization did not take long to get the green light from the IOC to implement its proposal. The first invitations have already been sent. The others should soon follow.