Paris 2024 chief says IOC has ‘final say’ on Russia’s inclusion

In an interview on the occasion of the 500 days before the start of the Olympic Games in Paris, the head of the organizing committee, Tony Estanguet, stressed that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would have the “final word” on the question of whether athletes from Russia and Belarus would be allowed to compete next year. .

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which was facilitated by its Belarusian ally, the sports world has called for athletes from both countries to be banned from the Games or compelled to compete under a neutral flag.

Last week, however, the International Fencing Federation (FIE) became the first Olympic sport to reopen events to athletes from both nations when it decided to allow fencers to compete in Olympic qualifying events, sparking outrage in Ukraine.

“The international federations are in the process of refining their qualifications, to find out whether Russian or Belarusian athletes will be allowed to participate in these qualifying competitions,” Estanguet told AFP.

“And then the IOC, depending on what the international federations have done, even if Russian or Belarusian athletes have qualified, will be able to say whether or not it will allow them to participate in these Games.”

“This decision has not been taken. And Paris 2024 is not in a position to decide.”

Estanguet said the priority however was not the Olympics but “how the situation can be resolved quickly and how we can best support the Ukrainian people, the Ukrainian athletes”.

The three-time Olympic gold medalist said he discussed the matter with French President Emmanuel Macron, but stressed that it was “the IOC that has the final say”.

Despite the crisis surrounding the ongoing war in Ukraine, Estanguet seemed optimistic as he looked ahead to next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games in the French capital.

“We believe all the ingredients are in place for the magic of the Games to work,” he said.

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