Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo stated her opposition to Russian athletes competing in the 2024 Olympics in the French capital.
Hidalgo stated that she “was not in favor” of allowing Russians to participate as neutrals or under an Olympic Games flag.
Not possible to have Russian delegation in Paris while bombs continue to rain on Ukraine – Mayor
Anne Hidalgo said that “if the decision is up to the IOC,” she does not “want” Russian athletes at the Paris 2024 Olympics. “As long as there is this war, this Russian aggression on Ukraine, it is not possible to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation that comes to Paris, while the bombs continue to rain on Ukraine,” Paris Mayor said during an interview with radio station France Info.
Neutral banner doesn’t really exist – Anne Hidalgo
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo reversed her opinion last month, arguing that athletes should not be denied the opportunity to compete because of their origin.
“In fact, [a neutral banner] doesn’t really exist because sometimes there are athletes who are dissidents. They march and compete under the refugee banner. The neutral banner was a doping issue, which was their choice. I am not in favor of this option. I would find it totally indecent. [In any case, we are not going to parade a country that is attacking another one and pretend that it does not exist. So I am not in favor of a Russian delegation to the Paris Olympics, especially if the war is still going on, which I do not want,” she explained.
The French Mayor also added that if there are Russians who are dissidents, who oppose Putin’s regime, they could come to compete under a neutral banner as refugees.
IOC under mounting pressure
The Paris Mayor is now at odds with the International Olympic Committee, which has laid out a plan for allowing Russians and Belarusians to compete in 2024 as “neutrals” under strict criteria. And the IOC is now under a bigger pressure to review its plan and ban Russian athletes.
Athletes from both nations have been barred from participating in several international sporting events since Russia waged war on Ukraine last year.
Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania support a ban of Russian athletes
The IOC’s decision has angered Ukrainian officials, who have increased pressure attempts to get Russians and Belarusians barred and have threatened to boycott the Games. Last week, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the call for a ban of Russian athletes.
While the decision ultimately rests with the International Olympic Committee, Anne Hidalgo is a crucial ally for Ukraine because she is at the core of Olympic preparations. Paris Mayor stated that if the IOC did not reconsider its stance, she would express her dissatisfaction publicly.
Read also: What lies behind the return of Russian athletes to the Olympics?
Ukrainians’ ager against the IOC plan to allow Russians to compete
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his disappointment with the statements of the President of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach. “Neutral flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood”, the President of Ukraine said.
The Ukrainian sports portal Tribuna.ua collects a database of Russian athletes who supported Russia’s full-scale invasion. The IOC statement sparked anger and a campaign in social media under hashtag #BloodyOlympics with calls to boycott the Olympic Games in Paris if Russians are allowed to compete.
Putin’s war has high support from Russia’s population
While Russian and Belarusian athletes are not responsible for Russia’s war, the Russian population’s support for Putin’s war remains exceptionally high – 81%, according to the poll conducted in December 2022.
Therefore, the entire Russian society, including athletes, must feel responsible for Russia’s imperial policy and war of aggression against a sovereign state.
Allowing Russian athletes to compete in the IOC would imply that this approach becomes the norm, allowing the Russian invasion to continue indefinitely. In Ukraine, the war instigated by Russian dictator Putin is still claiming innocent lives.