Paris mayor vows to keep Russian, Belarusian athletes out of Olympics

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PARIS (Reuters) – The Mayor of Paris said it was unthinkable that Russian and Belarusian athletes should be allowed to take part in the 2024 Summer Olympics under their national flags, adding she would do everything she could to prevent it.

Ukraine has spearheaded a call to ban athletes from Russia and its close ally Belarus from the Paris Games after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in January said it was open to including them as neutrals.

“I cannot imagine that they (IOC) will make that decision (to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes at Paris 2024),” Mayor Anne Hidalgo told French sports daily L’Equipe on Tuesday, 500 days before the start of the Games.

“I can’t imagine for a second that the IOC would want to leave such a legacy. So I’m going to do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Athletes from Russia and its neighbour Belarus, which aided Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine a year ago, have been banned from many international competitions since.

Last month, Hidalgo suggested Russian athletes could be allowed to attend the July 26-Aug 11 Games as part of an IOC-established refugee team, opposing the participation of Russian athletes as neutrals.

“We must act now. The fact that the IOC has chosen Paris for the celebration of this Olympics is a very strong sign because it is the capital of human rights,” she added on Tuesday, without mentioning the refugee team idea.

“It is the capital where all the great universal declarations of human rights have been sealed since the French Revolution. It is a country and a city that cannot look away when it comes to human rights.”

Games organisers have repeatedly said that they would abide by any decision the IOC makes over the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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