— Published 17 July 2023

For Paris 2024, the IOC will keep three invitations in the drawer

The announcement was not expected on this date. It surprised everyone, at least in form. On Thursday July 13, the eve of France’s national holiday, the IOC announced that it would not be sending invitations to Russia and Belarus to take part in the Paris 2024 Games.

As is customary, the invitations are sent by Lausanne to the National Olympic Committees a year ahead of the opening of the Games. They will therefore go out on Wednesday July 26. However, the IOC has made it clear that only 203 invitations will be sent. Russia, Belarus and Guatemala will be excluded.

Curiously, the Olympic body did not announce the news via a press release. Instead, it chose a less direct route, notifying the media early afternoon on Thursday July 13 of an update to its interminable Q&A on the participation of athletes carrying Russian or Belarusian passports in international competitions.

The document was first published on the IOC website on March 31. Since then, it has been updated several times. In its latest version, updated on Thursday July 13, the body has added a question, and an answer, on invitations for the Paris 2024 Games.

To the question “Will the Russian and Belarusian NOCs receive an invitation to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games when invitations are sent out on July 26, 2023?“, the answer leaves no room for interpretation: “Invitations to the Paris 2024 Games will be sent on July 26, 2023 to the 203 eligible NOCs. For the reasons given, the NOCs of Russia and Belarus will be excluded, as will the NOC of Guatemala, which is currently suspended.”

The end of the story? Certainly not. Certainly, Russia and its ally in the Ukraine conflict will not be receiving the precious letterhead from the IOC at the end of the month, signed by Thomas Bach. But the door to the Paris 2024 Games is not yet completely closed.

The body makes this clear, in the same reply to the question about the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes: “The IOC will make a decision in this regard in due course, at its sole discretion and without being bound by the results of previous Olympic qualifying events.”

The message is clear: the IOC reserves the right to authorize athletes from both countries, on an individual basis, under neutral status and subject to certain conditions. But it does not intend to rush into a more definitive decision.

It will do so “in due course“, a formula vague enough to give it plenty of room for manoeuvre. The IOC will probably at least wait for the Asian Games, scheduled from September 23 to October 8, 2023 in Hangzhou, China, to which a contingent of 500 Russian and Belarusian athletes would normally be invited.

In Moscow, the announcement of the IOC’s decision to keep the invitation to the Paris 2024 Games in a drawer was greeted with unrestrained declarations.

Oleg Matytsin, the Minister of Sport, used a formula that had already been used many times in recent months. “This is yet another case of discrimination and violation of Olympic principles,” he hammered, adding that the decision had been taken “without taking into account the qualifying competitions.”

Stanislav Pozdnyakov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), commented on it on his Telegram account. “Today’s news is a logical continuation of the IOC’s current policy of neutralizing our athletes, wrote the former fencer. In fact, nothing new has been announced. Nor is there any answer to the question of what legal grounds there are for not inviting the NOC, which has not been disqualified, suspended or subjected to any restrictions.”