Don’t let Russians win ‘medals of blood’ at Paris Olympics, says Oleksandr Usyk
World heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk has urged the International Olympic Committee not to allow Russian athletes to compete under a neutral banner in Paris next year, saying any medals they win will be “medals of blood”.
Usyk’s comments came as the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, made clear she does not want a Russian delegation at next year’s Games while the war in Ukraine goes on.
In a direct video message to IOC president Thomas Bach posted on his official Instagram account, Usyk said: “You want to allow Russian athletes to compete at the Olympics.
“Russian Armed Forces invaded our country and kill civilians. Russian army is killing Ukrainian athletes and coaches and destroying sports grounds as well as sports halls.
“The medals that Russian athletes are going to win are medals of blood, death and tears. Let me wish you to have peaceful sky above you and to be in good health and happy.”
The IOC has been working with international sports federations and national Olympic committees to develop a pathway enabling Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals under strict conditions, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Hidalgo told France Info: “As long as there is this war, this aggression (of) Russia on Ukraine, it is not possible to parade as if nothing had happened, to have a delegation come to Paris, while the bombs continue to rain down on Ukraine.”
Hidalgo last month said she was in favour of Russians participating under a neutral banner but has now expressed a different view.
She said: “In fact, (a neutral banner), it doesn’t really exist because sometimes there are athletes who are dissidents. They march and compete under the refugee banner.
“The neutral banner was a subject of doping and that was the choice they had made. I am not in favour of that option. I would find that totally indecent.”
Hidalgo stressed that if the IOC authorised a Russian flag at the Games, she would not agree with the position, adding: “I will speak before, because we still have a little time before deciding.”
The Olympics are due to run from July 26 to August 11 in the French capital next year.
The IOC initially recommended that international sports federations exclude athletes from Russia and Belarus in the days following the invasion last February.
However, Bach has repeatedly insisted that was a measure designed to protect those athletes, and is adamant no athlete should be discriminated against based on the passport they hold.
The IOC last week warned any boycott of the Games by Ukraine – which has been threatened by the country’s sports minister – would only serve to harm Ukrainian athletes and that a boycott by Ukraine and other countries would go against the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.
Meanwhile Downing Street has reiterated its stance that Russia and Belarus should not be allowed to compete at the Paris Games.
The issue was raised during Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to London, and the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said the UK had been “very clear” with the IOC on the issue.
While Russia was invading another country it “should be treated as a pariah state and should not be able to legitimise its illegal war in Ukraine”.
The spokesman said: “We, and indeed many other countries, have been unequivocal on this throughout and we want to ensure that we continue to speak with one voice on this and make that clear to the IOC.”