The mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo wished this Thursday the participation of Russian athletes, but under a neutral banner, in the Paris Olympic Games in 2024, unlike Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky who asked for their exclusion. “I think this is a moment for sports people and that athletes should not be deprived of their competition. But I think and I plead, like a large part of the sports movement, for there not to be delegation under the Russian banner”, explained on France 2 Ms. Hidalgo, who would prefer to see Russian athletes compete “under a neutral banner”, as has already been done.
“Of course the Games take place in a geopolitical space. I hope that the war in Ukraine will be behind us when we host the Paris Games, which will all the same be the first great moment of long-awaited brotherly encounter, because after the Covid, after all that we have just been through, there is a need to meet around sport”, she insisted.
Politically sensitive file
The file is politically sensitive: on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded from his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the Russians be already banned from the next Olympics, in less than two years.
But the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Wednesday drew a roadmap to reintegrate them into world sport. “No athlete should be banned from competition solely on the basis of their passport,” the Olympic body’s executive said in a statement after consulting with representatives of athletes, international federations and national Olympic committees.
Series of behind-the-scenes maneuvers
Behind this proclamation of principle, a series of behind-the-scenes maneuvers were initiated last fall to bring back into the fold of Olympism the Russians and Belarusians, excluded from most international competitions since the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February 2022. “Paris will be ready (…) on time, on time and within budget”, also assured Ms. Hidalgo, who also returned to the situation of illegal work on Olympic sites which were brought to light during checks.
“We know that there have been drifts here and there, marginal employers, precisely because we have put in place detection elements”, she underlined. “We have to go faster and moreover I can tell you that these companies which have been caught red-handed, they will really pay their responsibilities very heavily, these are criminal offenses”, insisted the mayor of Paris.