Russian and Belarusian athletes were barred from the Winter Paralympics in Beijing on the eve of the Games following threats of boycotts by other teams over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said.
Belarus has been a key staging area for the invasion, which was launched a week ago.
Thursday’s decision comes a day after the IPC gave athletes from the two countries the green light to participate in the March 4-13 Games as neutrals, saying the “athletes were not the aggressors”.
But that led to an outcry and threats from other countries’ National Paralympic Committees (NPC) to boycott the Games, IPC President Andrew Parsons told a news conference in Beijing.
“They told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Winter Games,” Parsons said.
“Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.”
Ukraine’s paralympic committee welcomed the decision and thanked the sporting community for rallying around them.
“A fair decision, a decision against a country that started this war,” committee president Valeriy Sushkevych told a news conference.
A 71-member Russian contingent and 12-member team from Belarus are in Beijing.
“Now Russia must leave the Games as soon as possible … we would also like to thank everyone for their support. I have received so many messages in the last few days … it’s time to stop this terrible war,” Sushkevych said.
Officials from the two banned teams were not immediately available for comment.
Parsons said it was clear the situation put his organisation in a “unique and impossible position” so close to the start of the Games, adding that an overwhelming number of members had been in touch and been forthright in their objections to Russia and Belarus taking part.
Parsons said the Russian and Belarusian athletes were victims of the actions of their governments.
“Athlete welfare will always be a priority for us,” he said.
“If Russian and Belarusian athletes stayed in Beijing, nations were likely to withdraw, and a viable Games would not have been possible.
“The atmosphere in the Games village is not pleasant. The situation there is escalating and has now become untenable … The Games are not only about gold, silver and bronze, but also about sending a strong message of inclusion.”
Parsons said the IPC was likely to face legal consequences but was confident that the right decision had been made.
The IPC said earlier in a statement that following a specially convened meeting, its Governing Board has decided not to allow athletes from Russia and Belarus to take part.
The ban got support of the Polish Paralympic Committee, which said it would have been unimaginable for athletes from Ukraine, Russia and Belarus to compete in the same place.
“The decision taken today was in our opinion the only possible one. Russia, with the support of Belarus, has aggressively breached international law and invaded another Paralympic member state and our close neighbour,” the committee said in a statement to Reuters.
“That is why we strongly objected the previous decision of IPC, many nations shared the same opinion and expressed it in their petitions to IPC. We are glad IPC changed their mind.”
Former international cricket umpire Koertzen dies in car accident
Rudi Koertzen, former international cricket umpire from South Africa, died on Tuesday in a car accident in the country, ESPNcricInfo reported citing his family.
“He went on a golf tournament with some of his friends, and they were expected to come back on Monday, but it seems they decided to play another round of golf,” his son Rudi Koertzen jr said.
Koertzen, 73, was on the International Cricket Council’s elite panel of umpires for eight years and officiated in 331 matches, a record at the time of his retirement in 2010 that has since been surpassed by Pakistan’s Aleem Dar.
“It is a very big loss, foremost for his family and then for South Africa and cricket,” Dar was quoted as saying by ESPNcricInfo.
“I stood in so many games with him. He was not only very good as an umpire but also an excellent colleague, always very cooperative on field and also always willing to help off the field.
“Because of the way he was, he was also well-respected by players.”
Koertzen died while driving from Cape Town to Despatch in Eastern Cape, where he lived with his family, ESPNcricInfo said.
Koertzen still umpired occasionally in amateur cricket in his hometown of Despatch in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
ACB names players for five-match T20I series against Ireland
The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on Monday announced the 16-member squad for the five T20I matches against Ireland scheduled to take place this month.
All matches will take place in Ireland and start on August 9. The tournament will run through until August 17.
According to the ACB, the team will leave for Ireland on Friday.
Mohammad Nabi will captain the team. The other players are as follows: Rahmanullah Gurbaz (wicketkeeper), Hazratullah Zazai, Ibrahim Zadran, Najibullah Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Darwish Rasooli, Karim Jannat, Afsar Zazai, Azmatullah Umarzai, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad, Fazal Haq, Farid Malik, and Naveen ul Haq.
The reserves are Qais Ahmed, Usman Ghani, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Najat Masoud.
Noorul Haq Malikzi, the ACB’s head of the selection committee said: “We have selected a team for Ireland, which I am sure will have great achievements, because our priority is talent, young players, their performance and strength.”
The Afghanistan Cricket Board says that one of the goals of these competitions is to prepare for the Asia Cup and the World Cup, which will start in September and October respectively.
Ireland announce squad for South Africa, Afghanistan T20Is
Ireland on Wednesday announced their squad for the two T20Is against South Africa as well as the first three games of the five-match series against Afghanistan in August 2022.
The selectors have kept faith in the group that played the three-match T20I series against New Zealand recently by retaining the same 14-member squad for the upcoming series against South Africa (two matches) and Afghanistan (three of the five matches).
Despite being whitewashed 3-0 at home by New Zealand, there were several positives for Ireland, including the lower-order batting form of Mark Adair and Curtis Campher. Paul Stirling gave yet another glimpse of his white-ball exploits with a 29-ball 40 in the final T20I, the ICC reported.
Amongst the bowlers, Josh Little finished as the highest wicket-taker in the series with eight wickets in three games including a four-for in the second T20I.
Squad: Andrew Balbirnie (Captain), Mark Adair, Curtis Campher, Gareth Delany, George Dockrell, Stephen Doheny, Fionn Hand, Josh Little, Andrew McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Paul Stirling, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Craig Young
Speaking on the squad selection, Chair of National Men’s Selectors Andrew White said: “We are now getting down to the final stages of our preparations as we build towards the Men’s T20 World Cup in October.
“The squad has faced two high-quality opponents in recent weeks, in India and New Zealand, and have stern tests ahead against South Africa and Afghanistan.
“We believe, while the results have not gone our way, the brand of cricket that [head coach] Heinrich Malan is instilling in the squad is showing positive signs and the players are beginning to equip themselves well as they build towards the World Cup in Australia.
“We have, however, sought to give ourselves a level of selection flexibility later in the Afghan series, and will announce a squad for the final two T20Is of that series in due course.”
The upcoming series against South Africa and Afghanistan will be the dress rehearsal for Ireland going into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup later this year. After failing to make it to the Super 12 last year in Oman and UAE, Ireland will be eager to make a mark later this year in Australia.
This year, they are pitted against Scotland, West Indies and Zimbabwe in Group B in the First Round that begins on 16 October.
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