By Noemie Olive and Marine Strauss
MARSEILLE (Reuters) -The head of the Paris 2024 Olympics Tony Estanguet said on Friday it was for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to decide whether Russian and Belarusian athletes can participate in the Games next year.
Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged the governing body to ban them from the sporting extravaganza, stating that allowing Russia to compete at the Games was tantamount to showing that “terror is somehow acceptable”.
Three-time Olympic champion and President of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee Estanguet told Reuters that he was “in favour of maintaining this symbol of universality for the Games” when asked about Russian and Belarusian participation.
Yet he said the decision rested with the Games’ governing body.
“It’s not in the charge of Paris 2024 to decide who is allowed to participate, it’s about the IOC, it’s about the IPC (International Paralympic Committee), it’s about the international federations who will decide which delegations will be allowed to participate,” Estanguet said.
When asked about the issue, an official from French President Emmanuel Macron’s office also said it was ultimately up to the IOC to decide whether to let Russian athletes compete, and that Macron was in favour of respecting historical precedents and letting them take part under a neutral banner.
Poland said on Thursday that it would be possible to build a coalition of some 40 countries, including the U.S., Britain and Canada, by Feb. 10 supporting the call to block Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Games
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.
Paris 2024 organisers said on Wednesday they would abide by the IOC’s decision on the issue.
The IOC announced last week that athletes from the two countries, banned from competitions in Europe, might be allowed to earn slots for the Olympics by qualifying through Asian events. However, it later said it was standing by sanctions imposed against Russia and Belarus.
The Paris Olympics will be held from July 26-Aug. 11 next year and the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8.
(Reporting by Noemie Olive, additional reporting by Michel Rose in Paris Writing by Marine Strauss, Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten and Toby Davis)