PARIS: French president Emmanuel Macron insisted Wednesday that “the Russian flag cannot be at the Paris Olympic Games... at a time when Russia is committing war crimes.”
Quizzed on the possible presence of Russian athletes in Paris competing as neutrals, Macron added: “I hope that this is a decision of conscience in the Olympic world. It is not the host state which must decide what the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should do.”
He added to sports daily L’Equipe: “I have total confidence in Thomas Bach (the IOC president).”
Athletes from Russia and Belarus have faced sanctions from a multitude of sports since Russia invaded Ukraine in February of 2022.
Despite the ongoing war, the IOC has recommended allowing athletes from Russia and Moscow ally Belarus to compete as individual neutrals in international competitions.
Those allowed to reintegrate into world sport must satisfy certain conditions.
These include competing under a neutral flag and proving that they have not actively supported the war in Ukraine.
“Obviously, there cannot be the Russian flag at the Paris Games, I think there is consensus,” Macron added in his interview with L’Equipe.
“There is no place for Russia as a country at a time when it has committed war crimes, when it has deported children.”
“The real question that the Olympic world will have to decide is what place to give to these Russian athletes who sometimes have prepared for a lifetime, and can also be the victims of this regime.”
However, Macron pondered how to differentiate between those Russian athletes who are accomplices and those who are victims of the regime.
“This is the real question,” he added.
The IOC must, he said, make a decision that is fair and understood by Ukrainians.
“This is the balancing act that we will have to carry out.”