Siberian showpiece confirmed for banned Russian Paralympians – officials
Russian athletes who were banned from the Beijing Winter Paralympic Games amid the fallout from the military conflict in Ukraine will be invited to compete at a special event held in the Siberian sporting center of Khanty-Mansiysk later this month, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko has confirmed.
Plans have been underway to find an alternative to the 2022 Beijing Games for Russian athletes ever since the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) issued a last-minute blanket ban on competitors from the country just one day before the event was due to begin.
The decision by the IPC – which it said was taken amid boycott threats and “influence” from governments – reversed a previous declaration in which the organization had cleared Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals.
After sportsmen and women from the two countries returned home from Beijing, it was initially suggested that Sochi could be a venue for a specially organized event.
However, Russian Deputy PM Chernyshenko – a key sporting figure in his homeland – has now named the well-known winter sports venue of Khanty-Mansiysk in Western Siberia as the location.
“Khanty-Mansiysk is ready to host the Paralympic Winter Games, they will be held from March 18 to March 21,” Chernyshenko said, TASS reported.
“The region has all the necessary sports and urban infrastructure that meets international standards.
“The venues for the competitions are located close to each other, so there will be no problems with transport logistics, the climate during this period is also suitable for competitions.
“Paralympic athletes are the pride of Russia, and we will do our best to make both athletes and fans enjoy these Games tremendously and feel proud of our country.”
The Games will be titled ‘We Are Together. Sport’, and Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) acting president Pavel Rozhkov confirmed that Belarusian athletes would also be invited.
“These Games will be confirmation that sport unites and inspires, that difficult situations only stimulate us to create bright new events that will attract the attention of the sports community and all our fans,” said Rozhkov.
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin echoed those sentiments, saying the event would “be a bright end to a complex Paralympic cycle.”
Competitions are reportedly planned across six winter sports: cross-country skiing, biathlon, curling, snowboarding, alpine skiing, and sled hockey.
The events will see prize winners receive remuneration on a par with what they would have been awarded had they competed in Beijing, Russian officials said.
Russia has been forced to put on its own events for Paralympic stars after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended a ban on all athletes from the country at international competitions following Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.
That stance has been taken up by the likes of football federations FIFA and UEFA, although some organizations such as the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have allowed Russian athletes to continue to compete as neutrals.
Russian officials have widely condemned the sweeping sanctions as discriminatory and antithetical to the notion that politics should be separate from sport.