Wimbledon allows Russian and Belarusian tennis players to return – POLITICO
Athletes from Russia and Belarus will be able to participate in this year’s edition of the Wimbledon tennis tournament as “neutral athletes”, tournament organizers said in a statement on Friday.
In April 2022, Wimbledon banned players from both countries following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine – in which some Russian troops entered Ukraine from Belarus, a close ally of Moscow.
“Our current intention is to accept entries from Russian and Belarusian players subject to them competing as ‘neutral’ athletes and meeting the appropriate conditions,” organizers said in a statement.
This includes banning “expressions of support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in various forms” as well as “the entry of actors receiving funding from Russian and/or Belarusian states”, including companies public, the statement said.
Ian Hewitt, chairman of the All England Club which organizes the tournament, called the decision “incredibly difficult” and said the organizers “continue[d] totally condemn the illegal invasion of Russia.
“We believe that, considering all factors, these are the most appropriate arrangements for the championships this year,” Hewitt said. The tournament takes place in London in July.
One of tennis’ four Grand Slam tournaments – the most important tournaments in professional tennis – Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes sparked controversy last year, forcing international tennis federations ATP and WTA to remove ranking points from last year’s edition.
A Belarusian player, Aryna Sabalenka, won the first Grand Slam of 2023 at the Australian Open.
The participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in international sports competitions has been a controversial topic since the start of the war in Ukraine.
Several countries, led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, have called for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be banned from the Paris Summer Olympics in 2024 – an effort that the International Olympic Committee president called “deplorable” on Thursday Thomas Bach.