A coincidence of the calendar? A few days before the World Judo Championships (May 7 to 14 in Doha), where Russia will be represented by nearly twenty athletes engaged as neutral competitors, the situation of Russian sport was invited to the Kremlin on Tuesday May 2 during the Council of Ministers. It even gave rise to a prolonged exchange between Vladimir Putin and the Minister of Sports, Oleg Matytsin.
According to the agency TASS, the two men discussed the Paris 2024 Games. And, surprise, out of their pockets the first figures of a possible Russian delegation to the Olympic appointment in the French capital.
Oleg Matytsin already made his accounts. To less than 500 days of the event (D – 450 this Wednesday, May 3), the former table tennis player and president of the International Federation of University Sport (FISU) estimates to 180 the number of athletes who could participate under conditions in the Olympic Games of Paris 2024.
“If our athletes pass the qualifying tests and the conditions for participation are not significantly changed, the maximum number of Russian participants in the 2024 Olympics should amount to about 180 athletes,” explained Oleg Matytsin during the last council of ministers.
A little less than 200, therefore, at the most. A participation between two waters, at the same time very weak for one of the major countries of the Olympic movement, but rather high in the current geopolitical context.
In the Games of Tokyo 2020, where the neutral delegation of the Russian athletes carried the colors of its national Olympic committee (ROC), Russia had succeeded in the tour de force to send 333 athletes (148 men and 185 women). It had closed the Olympic fortnight in the 5th place of the classification of medals, with 71 places on the podium, among which 20 on the highest step.
Oleg Matytsin explained to Vladimir Putin: “In total, the international sports federations in charge of 12 Olympic and 13 non-Olympic sports supported the participation of Russian athletes in international competitions. However, nine sports organizations have not yet defined clear criteria.”
There is no question, therefore, of easing the pressure. As the past few weeks have shown, the majority of the Olympic movement is inclined to follow the recommendation of the IOC Executive Board. The list of international federations that have opened the door to Russian athletes, in part or in large, is growing at a good pace. Oleg Matytsin is convinced: “We believe that it is necessary to continue the dialogue with international sports organizations and defend our interests, with the help of our friendly countries.”
But the Russian minister made it clear: it is already a given that Russia will not be able to participate in the Paris 2024 Games in eight team sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, handball and field hockey. At the Tokyo Games, the ROC delegation was represented in five team sports: basketball, handball, rugby 7s, volleyball and water polo.
One question remains unanswered: will the IOC announce its position on the participation of Russia and Belarus in the Paris 2024 Games? Regularly asked by the media, Thomas Bach has not yet announced any date. On the French side, Emmanuel Macron, the head of the State, is supposed to express himself on the question during the summer to come.
But the Russians seem to have made a reason: the decision will not intervene before the symbolic date of D – 1 year before the opening of the next Olympic Games. Oleg Matytsin suggested it on Tuesday, May 2 in the Council of Ministers: “The decision on the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games of 2024 will not be taken before July 26, 2023.” Not before, for sure. But not necessarily also immediately after.