The Paris 2024 participation of Russian athletes under a neutral banner is a sham.
They will inevitably serve as a springboard for the propaganda of Vladimir Putin's autocratic and warmongering regime.
At the end of July, at the World Fencing Championships in Milan, it was not sport that was in the spotlight, but a spectacular incident between Ukraine's Olga Kharlan and Russia's Anna Smirnova. Smirnova created the incident by demanding a handshake instead of the simple sabre salute that Kharlan had proposed. Smirnova then remained alone on the piste for more than 45', forcing the referees to sanction her opponent. Before the bout, however, the acting president of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), Emmanuel Katsiadakis, reportedly assured Kharlan that she would not be required to shake hands - the sabre salute having been regulation during the Covid epidemic.
Supposedly neutral athletes and their federations at the service of Russian propaganda
Although validated as a neutral independent athlete by the FIE, the Russian showed that she remained at the service of her country's propaganda.
Under pressure from Smirnova, O. Kharlan was initially disqualified and excluded from the rest of the competition. Is this surprising, given that the FIE was chaired from 2008 to 2022 by the pro-Putin Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov, who still wields a great deal of influence? The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Koch, then intervened "exceptionally" to guarantee Kharlan a place at the Paris Olympics. The FIE then partially backed down, allowing Kharlan to compete in the team event.
The Smirnova case demonstrates the impossibility of establishing clear-cut boundaries within a grey zone of support for the war in Ukraine. The International Judo Federation, which is also under strong Russian influence, provided the first illustration of this last May. It admitted a Russian delegation of independent neutral athletes, half of whom were military personnel, to the Doha World Championships - one of whom, Warrant Officer Inal Tasoev, came very close to depriving Teddy Riner of his gold medal, and was nonetheless quietly co-championed Other independent neutral athletes who have been taking part in international competitions since the IOC's recommendations last March are taking part in teams made up of Russian military personnel, training in army or police clubs, or (like Smirnova) supporting the Russian armed forces on social networks. Much of this information is conveniently suppressed to cover up the trail.
The weight of sport in the Putin regime is unique. This collusion (sportokratura) makes Russian sportsmen and women an exceptional propaganda tool for Putin, undermining Olympic and democratic values.a month later!
Don't let Putin spoil the Games and our capital city
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC), which had adopted a very firm position at the end of 2022, reversed course on September 29, against the advice of its Athletes' Commission. The vote to reinstate the Russian Paralympic Committee was a close one. We welcome the reaction of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, denouncing "the risk of manipulation, even under a neutral banner" and "the pressure exerted (...) on certain national Paralympic Committees". They show just how important the Paris Games are to Putin. Let's not let them become the Games of shame, at the risk of a boycott by Ukraine and other countries.
To prevent Putin's army of athletes from winning Olympic victories, which would provide a golden springboard for his regime, we call on the IOC and IPC to refuse to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Paris Games, even under a neutral flag, with the exception of those who have expressed their opposition to the war in Ukraine.
Joëlle Garriaud-Maylam, Honorary Senator representing French nationals living outside France (Les Républicains group)
André Gattolin, former Senator for Hauts-de-Seine (Rassemblement des démocrates, progressistes et indépendants group)
Arnaud Genestine, sports consultant
André Klarsfeld, Vice-Chairman of Pour l'Ukraine, pour leur liberté et la nôtre!
Etienne Klein, physicist, essayist
Jean-Yves Leconte, former Senator representing French nationals living outside France (Socialist, Ecologist and Republican group)
Sylvie Rollet, Professor Emeritus, President of Pour l'Ukraine, pour leur liberté et la nôtre!
Nicolas Tenzer, lecturer at Sciences Po Paris