‘Festival of Peace’ clouded by protests as Russians get banned from Games

The Beijing Winter Paralympics were to begin on Friday amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. It is important to reflect once again on the Games’ philosophy of aiming for peace in the world.

The International Paralympic Committee announced on Thursday that athletes from Russia and Belarus, which supports Russia, will not be allowed to compete in the Paralympic Games.

Initially, the IPC was going to allow the athletes to compete as neutral individuals not affiliated with any country, but that decision was reversed on the day before the opening of the Games.

The IPC said many countries protested that they would not participate in the Games if Russia was allowed to compete. The IPC also took into consideration the fact that it would be difficult to ensure the safety of the athletes’ village if Russia’s participation was allowed.

Considering the outrageous attacks on Ukraine, it is not surprising that many people could not accept the participation of athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Russia was originally suspended from the event due to a systematic doping problem, but about 70 Russian athletes had planned to participate on an individual basis.

At the end of last year, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a “truce resolution” during the Olympics and Paralympics, a resolution for which Russia was a co-sponsor. Its brazen violation of the resolution and its military action is utterly unacceptable.

This “festival of peace” is unusual in that it was not decided until the day before the Games which athletes would participate. All the blame for the chaos lies with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who recklessly launched the invasion.

It is hoped that the Russian athletes who are not allowed to compete will also accept this fact and reflect on the magnitude of the anger of many countries and the preciousness of peace. The Games should be an opportunity to send a message of protest against Russian aggression and a wish for peace to the world.

Athletes from Ukraine will compete in the Games. It is a powerful country that won 22 medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Paralympics. We want to send our strongest encouragement to the athletes, who will be competing while worrying about their families back home.

The Paralympic Games will be held over 10 days through March 13, with 78 events in six sports. From Japan, 29 athletes will compete in four sports: alpine and cross country skiing, biathlon, and snowboarding. They are aiming to surpass the 10 medals Japan won in Pyeongchang, including three gold medals.

Many Japanese athletes are expected to do well, including Momoka Muraoka, who won five medals, including a gold, in the women’s alpine in Pyeongchang, and Yoshihiro Nitta in the men’s cross country skiing, who will compete in his seventh consecutive Games.

The Games will be held in a different atmosphere than usual, but Japan’s athletes are encouraged to show the world the “power of sports” by performing at their best.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 4, 2022.