PARIS, France, (AFP) – The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said Thursday that she was in favour of Russian athletes competing as neutrals in the 2024 Paris Olympics despite pressure from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to ban them.
"I think that it's a sporting moment and we shouldn't deprive athletes of the competition," Anne Hidalgo told France 2 television. "But I think and what I'm arguing for, as is a large part of the sporting world, is that there isn't a delegation under the Russian banner."
She suggested they compete under a "neutral banner".
"I hope the war in Ukraine will be behind us by the time we host the Paris Games... after Covid, after everything we've been through, there's a real need to come together through sport," added the Socialist.
Most international sporting federations have followed a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes after Moscow's invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
But the IOC said Wednesday that a pathway for their athletes' participation at next year's Paris Olympics should be "further explored".
"No athlete should be prevented from competing just because of their passport," the IOC said in a press release that appeared to open the door for a return of Russians and Belarusians as neutrals.
The IOC said it "welcomed and appreciated" the Olympic Council of Asia's offer to accept Russian and Belarusian athletes into qualifying events for Paris 2024.
During a call on Tuesday, Zelensky said he had stressed to French President Emmanuel Macron that Russian athletes "should have no place" at the Paris Olympics.
The games are set to start on July 26, 2024, with an ambitious opening ceremony that will see a flotilla of some 200 boats sail down the river Seine