Russia and its ally Belarus were invited to compete at the Asian Games on Thursday in the next step to qualifying teams for next year’s Paris Olympics in an arrangement brokered by the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC indicated on Wednesday that it favours allowing Russians to compete at the 2024 Olympics as neutral athletes. Russia and Belarus have been barred from almost all international competitions in Olympic sports following the invasion of Ukraine.
Competing in qualifying events administered by the Olympic Council of Asia could sidestep possible tensions if Russia were to compete in European events as usual.
The Asian Games will be in Hangzhou, China, in September and October, and function as Olympic qualifiers in several sports including archery and boxing. Some other sports host their own Asia-specific qualifying competitions.
“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 OCA said in a statement.
“The OCA has offered to give eligible Russian and Belarusian athletes the opportunity to take part in competitions in Asia, including the Asian Games.”
The OCA added it “remains on standby” until the IOC and the individual sports’ governing bodies finalize the conditions for Russia and Belarus to compete.