PARIS (AP) – Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo says there should be no Russian delegation allowed at the Paris Olympics next year if Moscow continues its war against Ukraine.
Hidalgo previously said Russian competitors could take part under a neutral flag but she backpedaled on Tuesday in an interview with French media France Info.
Acknowledging that a final decision belongs to the International Olympic Committee, Hidalgo said she wishes Russian athletes will be banned “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 down on Ukraine.”
Hidalgo’s comments came after Ukraine’s sports minister last week renewed a threat to boycott the games if Russia and Belarus are allowed to compete and said Kyiv would lobby others to join.
No nation has so far declared it will boycott the 2024 Summer Games. But Ukraine won support from Poland, the Baltic nations and Denmark, who pushed back against an IOC plan to allow delegations from Russia and ally Belarus to compete in Paris as “neutral athletes” without flags or anthems.
Hidalgo said she would find it “totally indecent” if Russian athletes competed in the French capital under those terms. But she left the door open for Russian dissidents who don’t support President Vladimir Putin’s actions to parade in Paris “under a refugee banner.”
Russia has cautiously welcomed the IOC’s decision to give it a path to the Olympics but demands it drop a condition that would leave out those athletes deemed to be “actively supporting the war in Ukraine.”
Russian Olympic Committee head Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who was a teammate of Ukraine’s Huttsait at the 1992 Olympics, called that aspect discriminatory. The IOC, which previously recommended excluding Russia and Belarus from world sports on safety grounds, now argues it cannot discriminate against them purely based on citizenship.
Asked by The Associated Press about the boycott threats and the IOC plan, Paris 2024 organizing committee head Tony Estanguet said he would not comment “about political decisions.”
If the IOC proposal takes effect, Paris would be the fourth straight Olympicas where Russian athletes have competed without the national flag or anthem. The Russian teams at the Winter Olympics in 2018 and 2022 and the Summer Olympics in 2021 were caught up in the fallout from state-sponsored doping.
The last time multiple countries boycotted an Olympics was in 1988, when North Korea and others refused to attend the Summer Games in South Korea.