PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron said the Russian flag has no place at next year’s Paris Olympics because of the war crimes committed by Vladimir Putin’s regime in Ukraine.
Russia has not been allowed to fly its flag at the Olympics since the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Since then, Russians have been competing at the Summer and Winter Olympics under various names because of doping issues.
In an interview with L’Equipe newspaper published Thursday, Macron said he didn’t want them to fly their flag in Paris because of the war in Ukraine.
“Russia, as a country, has no place at a time when it has committed war crimes and deported children,” Macron said.
The interview was published a day after a Russian missile tore through an outdoor market in eastern Ukraine, killing 17 people and wounding dozens.
The IOC has encouraged governing bodies of individual sports to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete as “neutral athletes” without national symbols or flags in Olympic qualifying events.
The governing bodies of most Olympic sports have either adopted the IOC policy already or are working on plans to do so. The IOC still recommends barring Russia and Belarus from team sports and excluding athletes who are contracted to the military or security forces.
“There can’t, obviously, be a Russian flag at the Paris Games, I think there’s a consensus on that,” Macron said.
Asked whether he favors the presence of Russian athletes, Macron said the issue “should not be politicized.”
“I want the Olympic world to make a conscious decision, and I have every confidence in (IOC president) Thomas Bach,” he said.
Macron acknowledged that as president of France he has a say in the matter, “but within the framework of a dialogue.”
France could refuse to issue visas to Russian athletes, coaches and officials, as some European countries have done for sporting events they have hosted since the invasion started.
“The real question that the Olympic world will have to decide is what place to give to these Russian athletes, who have sometimes prepared their whole lives and may also be victims of this regime,” Macron said. “Some may fight it, even in their public statements.”
In March, the IOC said eligibility should be limited to athletes and officials who have not actively supported the war, nor have ties to the military and state security agencies. No clear definitions for eligibility have yet been stated.