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Olympics 2024: can Zelensky's pressure on Macron prevent the reinstatement of Russian athletes?


The tide is turning within the Olympic authorities, which are increasingly considering reintegrating Russian and Belarusian athletes into the competitions.

On August 10, 2024, 20,024 will be lucky enough to frolic in Paris along the Olympic marathon route.

This popular event, wedged between the men's event and the women's event, will serve as a great first in the history of the Games.

The vast majority of participants will be selected via a lottery.

But will it still be necessary to ensure the nationality of the participants?

Will it be necessary, in particular, to ensure that no Russian or Belarusian bib shows up on the starting line?

Asking this question may seem outrageous but is not as absurd as it seems.

Last fall, the organizers of the New York marathon had to justify the presence of amateur runners from Russia and Belarus.

Today, eleven months after the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin's troops, the subject of the presence of Russian and Belarusian athletes on the world sports scene continues to divide.

Fencing, swimming, judo, athletics… Almost every international federation has aligned itself with the directives of the International Olympic Committee last March.

An exclusion in good and due form, which has since known no modification.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads, unsurprisingly, for the maintenance of this status quo.

This Tuesday, January 24, the leader thus asked Emmanuel Macron to do everything so that Russian and Belarusian athletes did not have “their place” at the Paris Olympics (July 26-August 11).

A stroke of pressure with a timing that is anything but trivial.

A “political neutrality” put forward by the IOC

A door has indeed opened in recent months in favor of an easing of sanctions.

The IOC seems to have taken note that this war was likely to settle in time.

"We had to act against our own values", doing "what we had never done and never wanted to do, which is to prevent athletes from competing solely because of their passports,” acknowledged IOC President Thomas Bach on December 9.

“We must now explore ways to overcome this dilemma to return to sporting merits and not political interference.


Read alsoFlorent Manaudou: "The neutral banner for Russian athletes, a half-sanction"

This Wednesday, the IOC gave a layer.

In a statement, he reaffirmed his desire to "investigate further" how they could be reinstated in the name of "political neutrality" and the best interest of the athletes.

Broadly speaking, it would be a question of welcoming them under a “neutral banner”, like what is happening in tennis currently with Daniil Medvedev or Andrey Rublev, for example.

This device has already applied since 2015 for the Russians, whose authorities were punished after a doping scandal.

The IOC would also make sure not to allow athletes to compete who had “actively supported the war in Ukraine”.

Initially, they could be invited to participate in tournaments on Asian soil.

One way to avoid direct confrontations with athletes from Western countries involved in the conflict.

Another data is to be taken into account in the current reflections.

There is indeed urgency in certain sports for the race for Olympic qualification.

This is the case of judo, for example.

According to our information, the Paris Grand Slam will also be held in ten days (February 4-5) without Russians or Belarusians.

The international federation had promised this fall to re-examine the exclusion of these athletes during the month of January 2023. Contacted, it is not able to give any information.

France "very respectful of the autonomy of the sports movement"

The authorities in kyiv strongly fear this scenario of reinstatement.

They see sport as an essential tool in their diplomatic strategy.

Seeing the Russians back in athletics meetings or major judo tournaments would be a huge setback.

Such a scenario would give the feeling of being abandoned by the international community.

So imagine their return to the Olympics in eighteen months…

In this fight, Volodymyr Zelensky should not be able to count on the support of Emmanuel Macron.

“From a legal point of view, the head of state of the host country of the Olympic Games has no competence.

It's obvious, ”recalls Lydie Cohen, doctoral student in sports law.

This is also what the president of the organizing committee Tony Estanguet, who kicked into touch this Wednesday, also suggested.

"The rules are set by the IOC", he repeated, while specifying that a new stage point would be made by the International Olympic Committee and the Paralympic Committee (IPC) "by the end of 2023".

And, behind the scenes, Emmanuel Macron does not intend to play with his influence.

At the Élysée, it is recalled that "if France has positions and defends them", it is also "very respectful of the autonomy of the sports movement".

The presidency could be brought to regret a change of rules, but it would not oppose it frontally.

This silence is not necessarily to the taste of the European think tank Sport and Citizenship.

"A phone call to Thomas Bach can count," says its managing director Julian Jappert.

“It is obvious that anything that can weaken Vladimir Putin can be useful.

We know the interest that the Russian president has for sport and for using athletes in his propaganda.

Excluding its athletes by all means therefore seems to us to be the best solution.


Source: leparis

All sports articles on 2023-01-26

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