2024 Olympics: Paris mayor says Russian, Belarusian athletes ‘not welcome’

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Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said on Saturday Russian and Belarusian athletes “were not welcome” at the Olympics being staged in the French capital this year.

“I want to tell Russian and Belarusian athletes that they are not welcome in Paris and to tell Ukrainian athletes and all the Ukrainian people that we support them very strongly,” Hidalgo said in a video posted by Ukrainian YouTube channel, United News.

Hidalgo made her comments on a trip to Kyiv where she visited a training centre for Ukrainian athletes.

Russian athletes can compete in the Paris Olympics, which run from July 26 until August 11 but only as neutrals.

Russia and Belarus have been banned from taking part in the opening ceremony which will be staged on the River Seine in the heart of the city.

In response, Moscow launched a furious tirade at the International Olympic Committee, arguing the IOC’s restrictions on Russian athletes amounted to “neo-Nazism”.

The IOC suspended Russia from the 2024 Games last year, but gave the green light for its athletes to compete as neutrals as long as they did not actively support the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine.

It came after authorities announced around 800 people who “did not have good intentions” were to be excluded from the Games over security fears.

The list includes 15 deemed to represent the most serious threat to national security.

“The French people must know that we absolutely check everyone who approaches the Olympic Games — so there are the volunteers, torch bearers, the people who will welcome you,” French interior minister Gerald Darmanin said.

“There are a million checks to be done; we have already carried out 180,000 checks. We have excluded 800 people including 15 on ‘Fiches S’ (the dossier of the most serious threats).

“That means that there are people who wanted to register to carry the flame, to be volunteers at the Olympic Games and who clearly did not have good intentions.”

Darmanin specified that among those excluded were “radical Islamists” and “radical ecology people who want to protest”.

French security forces are screening up to a million people before the Olympics, including athletes and people living close to key infrastructure, according to the interior ministry.

Ahead of the start on July 26, all 10,500 athletes selected for the Olympics and 4400 for the Paralympics will be subjected to background checks, as will their coaches and medical staff, in addition to 26,000 accredited journalists.

The Olympics are set to take place from July 26-August 11 followed by the Paralympics from August 28-September 8.

France was placed on its highest alert for terror attacks in October after a suspected Islamist burst into a school in the north of the country and stabbed a teacher to death.

The country has been consistently targeted by Islamic extremists over the last decade, particularly by the Islamic State group, while Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza is seen as exacerbating domestic tensions.

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