A "clarification", said those around him, while Ms. Hidalgo said on Tuesday morning on France info that she was now opposed to the presence of Russian athletes at the Paris Games as long as the war led by Vladimir Putin continues in Ukraine.

The file is politically inflammable, particularly in the host country: at the end of January, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded from his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron that the Russians be already banned from the next Olympics.

But nearly a year after Moscow began to invade Ukraine, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has drawn up a roadmap to reintegrate them into world sport, saying "no athlete should be banned from competition on the sole basis of his passport".

Despite repeated calls from kyiv to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics, the IOC has thus declared to "study" the possibility of authorizing them to participate, under a neutral banner.

Emmanuel Macron, he has still not spoken on the subject.

Contacted Tuesday by AFP, neither the Elysée nor the Ministry of Sports, nor the IOC had immediately reacted to the new position of the mayor of Paris.

"Refugee banner"?

In the end, "it's up to the IOC to decide", recalled Anne Hidalgo, whose position has evolved since the end of January, when she said she was in favor of their participation "under a neutral banner", so as not to "deprive the athletes of their competition".

Photo of the Olympic flag at the IOC headquarters, taken on March 8, 2021 in Lausanne © Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP/Archives

A compromise that she now considers "totally indecent".

The neutral banner, "it does not really exist", estimated the elected socialist, establishing a distinction with "dissident Russians who want to parade under a banner of refugees".

These athletes who "parade and compete under the banner of refugees" do not "support Vladimir Putin in his aggression" and "will be refugees and dissidents", she said again to justify her about-face.

Since the start of the Russian offensive on February 24, 2022, the mayor of Paris has been at the bedside of Ukraine, with an envelope of more than one million euros in emergency aid and the requisition of two Parisian gymnasiums for the reception of refugees.

In April, after his stinging failure in the first round of the presidential election, his first action was to go to kyiv, in the greatest secrecy, to meet the mayor of the Ukrainian capital, former boxer Vitali Klitschko.

She plans to move again.

Mayor of kyiv Vitali Klitschko during a Christmas ceremony on December 19, 2022 in the Ukrainian capital © Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP/Archives

boycott threat

The case of Russian athletes has been thorny since the 2016 Olympics in Rio, due to the exclusion at the time of Russia for its generalized doping system.

In Tokyo in 2021 (Summer Games) and in Beijing (Winter Games) in 2022, they marched under a neutral banner.

"I am not in favor of this option", however insisted Ms. Hidalgo.

“We are not going to scroll a country that is attacking another and pretend that it does not exist,” she said again.

Since the start of the war, Russians and Belarusians have been banned from most world sporting events.

The case of Belarusian athletes, whose country supports Russia's invasion of Ukraine, was not discussed by the mayor of Paris on Tuesday.

This debate on the 2024 Olympics has already taken on an international dimension.

The idea, put forward by the IOC, of ​​seeing Russian athletes parade under a neutral flag on condition that they had "not actively supported the war in Ukraine" was immediately rejected by the Ukrainian authorities, who brandished the threat of a boycott, followed by Poland, Estonia and the Czech Republic.

Photo distributed by the Ukrainian Presidency showing the meeting between Volodymyr Zelensky and the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Thomas Bach, July 3, 2022 in kyiv © Handout / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/AFP/Archives

The United States, on the other hand, came out in favor of this compromise.

© 2023 AFP