The South Korean national Olympic body said Wednesday it will seek further clarification from the top Asian sports organization, in light of the latter's decision to allow Russia to compete in the continent's largest multisport event.
The Korean Sport & Olympic Committee plans to send a formal letter to the Olympic Council of Asia this week demanding answers on how the continental body will operate this year's Asian Games with athletes from Russia and also Belarus on hand.
Delayed by one year due to effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 19th Asian Games will take place in Hangzhou, China, from Sept. 23 to Oct. 8 this year.
Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine last year, athletes from Russia and Belarus, its ally, have been banned by the International Olympic Committee from competing in international sports events wearing their flags. At the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, however, athletes from the two countries were allowed to participate as neutrals.
Last month, the IOC kept the doors open for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete under neutral flags at the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, despite Ukraine's repeated calls for a complete ban on those athletes.
The OCA then invited them to the Asian Games, a key Olympic qualifier, saying, "The OCA believes in the unifying power of sport and that all athletes, regardless of their nationality or the passport they hold, should be able to compete in sports competitions."
According to the KSOC, the OCA notified its 45 member states of Russia's and Belarus' participation in the Asian Games on Monday, without any prior consultation. The OCA said 500 athletes from the two countries will not be eligible to win medals, and it also vowed to ensure Asian athletes will not be put at a disadvantage in their bid to qualify for the Paris Olympics.
"With Russian and Belarusian athletes participating, operating knockout events at the Asian Games can pose some problems," a KSOC official said. "We will ask the OCA how it will handle those situations, and also in what sports Russian and Belarusian athletes will compete at the Asian Games."
Having non-Asian athletes at the Asian Games is not unprecedented. The OCA invited athletes from Australia and New Zealand to the 2017 Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan. They too were not awarded any medals. (Yonhap)