Paralympics officials confirm Ukrainian Paralympians safely arrived in Beijing to compete
Follow all the latest updates from the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony as the Games begin against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
After initially ruling that Russian and Belarusian athletes would be able to compete under a neutral flag on Wednesday, the International Paralympic Committee made a dramatic U-turn on that decision yesterday. The IPC’s president, Andrews Parsons, admitted the situation in the athletes’ village had “become untenable” as several countries threatened to boycott the Games in protest. “What is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games,” he said. “Yesterday we said we would continue to listen, and that is what we are doing.”
Russia reacted to the announcement by claiming they would launch an emergency lawsuit with the Court of Arbitration for Sport, however, on Friday a statement confirmed that their athletes are now “planning to leave the capital of the Winter Games”. Ukraine’s delegation of athletes has arrived safely in Beijing, with committee president Valeriy Sushkevych hailing their participation as “a miracle”. There will be 24 British athletes competing at the Games, as ParalympicsGB’s bid to emulate the record seven-medal haul scooped in South Korea four years ago. Follow the opening ceremony live below:
Opening ceremony takes place in shadow of war
The Paralympics’ profile continues to snowball with each Games that goes by but the next 10 days in Beijing might just top the lot.
Exactly 180 days ago, the curtain came down on a Summer Games characterized by joy, human achievement and bold sporting ambitions – the fitting global showpiece after over a year of grueling coronavirus restrictions.
But this Games will be different, not so much the preserve of inspirational tales, celebration and resilience as an event catapulted further into the international spotlight owing to horrific military headlines.
Will Jennings reports from Beijing:
Tom Kershaw4 March 2022 11:25
Winter Paralympics opening ceremony
Welcome to The Independent‘s live coverage of the Winter Paralympics opening ceremony in Beijing.
The Games will begin as planned in the early hours of tomorrow morning but the build-up has been entirely overshadowed by Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine. The International Paralympic Committee on Wednesday announced that Russian and Belarusian athletes would still be able to compete under a neutral flag. But after countries threatened a mass boycott in response, the IPC’s president, Andrew Parsons, conceded the atmosphere in the athletes’ village had become “untenable” and barred all 83 Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing.
Russia initially threatened to sue the IPC and called for an emergency hearing with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. However, on Friday, the Russian Paralympic Committee subsequently admitted that the IPC rules state it has the power to refuse any athlete participation “at its sole discretion” and confirmed it was now in the process of organizing the Russian delegation’s departure from Beijing.
Tom Kershaw4 March 2022 11:14