Fans held up signs and enthusiastically greeted the team on their arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport
Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) athletes have received a rapturous reception on their return to Moscow, arriving at Sheremetyevo airport following the decision by Beijing Winter Paralympic Games 2022 organizers to bar them from competing following the start of the military operation in Ukraine.
Clips showed fans waving flags and holding banners and signs in an enthusiastic show of admiration as the 72-person party touched down following their premature departure from the Games.
The International Paralympic Committee announced its decision to prevent Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part a day before the Games started on Friday.
Stars from the two countries had previously been publicly told they would be allowed to compete as neutrals, although they were excluded from the medal table under the initial ruling.
Russia: The Russian Paralympic team was met in Sheremetyevo.
Our athletes have returned from China to Moscow. The International Paralympic Committee did not allow Russians to compete in Beijing, which takes place from March 4 to March 13. pic.twitter.com/FFGlnH3UP5
— Captain Singh, FICArb, 73K (@captsingh) March 6, 2022
The RPC said it had been unable to appeal the ban because of IPC rules. Announcing the order at the time, Paralympic chiefs said they had acted to preserve the integrity of the Games and safeguard participants.
“To the para-athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce,” it added. “You are victims of your governments’ actions.”
IPC President Andrew Parsons added: “No-one is happy with the decision but, certainly, this is the best decision for the Paralympic Games to go ahead.”
2006 Winter Olympics ice dancing champion Tatiana Navka described the move as a “politicized decision” by the IPC and International Olympic Committee.
“I cannot call such a decision of international sports organizations anything other than a failure and a disgrace to the principles of sports,” Navka added on Instagram.
“Our Paralympic athletes are some of the strongest athletes in the world who have been waiting for eight years to participate in these games.
“Our great, legendary and strongest were not allowed to show themselves. they took away the chance and glory simply because some organizations forgot that sport is out of politics.
“I am extremely sorry for our athletes from a human point of view because it is dishonest, ugly and unsportsmanlike.
“And from the point of view of an athlete, I believe that our people will be able to overcome everything, find motivation and inspiration and prove to the world more than once that they are great sports stars – which they really are, 100%. Guys, hold on – the whole country is with you.”
Russian sports minister Oleg Matytsin previously called the ban a violation of athlete rights and the Olympic Charter.