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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Paris mayor: Russian, Belarusian athletes not welcome at Olympics

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PARIS—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.

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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.

Meanwhile, in Vitry-Sur-Seine, France, refugees were caught up in Paris’ clean-up drive.

“The police arrived at 7am and said to us ‘get in the bus’,” Ali, a refugee from war-torn Sudan, remembers of the morning that police raided the squat he was living in last April in northern Paris along with 500 other migrants.

Despite having a job and refugee status, he was ordered on to the vehicle.

“We didn’t have any choice,” he explained.

Along with others scooped up at the disaffected office building, he was told he was being sent by bus to Toulouse — a nearly 700-kilometre (435-mile) trip of seven or eight hours to the southwest.

“They (the police) went from room to room to tell us to get out, then they took our identity documents and said ‘get in the bus’,” he added in an interview with AFP. “It was impossible to get out of it. They were saying we had to hurry up.”

Ali, who has a job as a cleaner at Disneyland Paris earning 1,400 euros ($1,500) a month, had been caught up in the French government’s policy of sending migrants from the capital to regional towns.

It was announced by French President Emmanuel Macron in September 2022 during a speech in which he criticized the idea of concentrating refugees and migrants in low-income and troubled neighborhoods of Paris as “absurd”. AFP

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