Belarus were fearful their entire nation would be banned from competing at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro after a member of their delegation carried the Russian flag at the Opening Ceremony, the head of the country’s National Paralympic Committee (NPC) Oleg Chepel has admitted.
Andrei Fomachkin, a representative of the Belarusian Ministry of Sports and Tourism, made the gesture during the spectacle on September 7 at the Maracanã Stadium in a show of solidarity to the Russians, who were prohibited from competing at the Games by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Fomachkin, who was offered an apartment in Moscow as an apparent reward, presented the flag he used during the Ceremony to the vice-president of the Russian Paralympic Committee, Lidiya Abramova, during a press conference yesterday.
He was stripped of his Rio 2016 Paralympics accreditation by the IPC as a result of the gesture and Chepel claimed the country felt uneasy about whether it would have further consequences for their team at the Games.
The Belarus NPC head also described the IPC imposing a blanket ban on Russian athletes as the "most unfair decision in the history of the Paralympic Movement".
"We were afraid that the whole team would be banned, there were talks that either my accreditation, or the accreditation of the chief of the country’s mission in Rio, can be revoked, and we felt like we were at war," Shepel was quoted as saying by TASS.
"It was the entire team’s initiative because it was the most unfair decision in the history of the Paralympic Movement.
"It was not easy to do because everybody waited whether the Belarusians would carry the flag."
Chepel also revealed that Fomachkin, who was attending the Games as a guest of the NPC President, had brought two flags with him to the Ceremony but one had been confiscated before he took to the track for the parade of nations.
"Our delegation had five flags and Fomachkin had two," Chepel added.
"One of the flags was confiscated when we were entering the pitch, but Fomachkin did what he had to do."
The gesture came after the Belarusian NPC reportedly informed the IPC in August that it intended to carry the Russian flag alongside the Belarusian one at the Opening Ceremony.
The IPC claim, however, they had turned down the request.
The IPC chose to exclude the whole Russian team from the Rio 2016 Paralympics in the wake of the McLaren Report, which alleged the presence of a state-sponsored doping scheme at a number of major events, including the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi.
Belarus claimed a total of 10 medals at Rio 2016, eight of which were gold, with six being won by swimmer Ihar Boki.