The IOC can rub its hands. With less than 320 days to go until the Paris 2024 Games (D – 319 this Monday, September 11), the pieces are slowly falling into place. Of course, the question of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes remains unanswered. But for the rest, the planets are aligning very wisely.
The latest proof remains highly symbolic. It was expected and will not change the course of the clouds. But the Olympic governing body and its president, Thomas Bach, were quick to welcome it with words of thanks.
Meeting over the weekend in New Delhi, under the chairmanship of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (photo above), the G20 discussed sport, Olympism and the Paris 2024 Games. Rather unusual. And produced a highly formatted declaration, but one that was duly appreciated at Lausanne’s Olympic House.
“We look forward to the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2024 as a symbol of peace, dialogue between nations and inclusiveness, with the participation of all,” says the G20 communiqué, relayed the same day by the IOC.
The G20 class of 2023 comprises 19 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Mexico, South Korea, Russia, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States), the African Union (AU) – present this year for the first time – and the European Union (EU). Its members account for some 85% of global GDP, over 75% of world trade and roughly two-thirds of the world’s population.
In itself, his message is no scoop. He supports the Paris 2024 Games, nothing more. To do otherwise would have shaken the entire Olympic movement to its foundations. But with the words chosen, the G20 is offering its blessing to the IOC in its bid to bring Russian and Belarusian athletes back onto the international stage. “With the participation of all“, says the declaration. The expression is not insignificant.
Thomas Bach made no mistake. The IOC President thanked the G20 for their support. “We would like to extend our warmest thanks to the G20 leaders, which for the first time include the African Union, for their invaluable support, explained the German leader, quoted in a press release issued by the body. The IOC will continue to work with total commitment to achieve these goals, which are also our own.”
With this G20 declaration, the IOC can complete a collection of endorsements for its already highly respectable geo-political strategy. It could come in handy when it finally has to decide, probably not before the end of the year, on the question of the participation under conditions of neutrality of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Paris 2024 Games.
As the Olympic body points out in its very long Q&A on the participation of athletes from both countries in international competitions, published on its website and regularly updated: “The IOC has enjoyed considerable support.”
The document lists them. They include, in no particular order, the United Nations, the Group of Seven (G7), and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Opponents continue to exist, even if they are less vocal today. “Some European governments“, points out the IOC in its Q&A. It continues: “It is regrettable to note that certain governments do not wish to respect the position of the majority of the components of the Olympic movement, nor the autonomy of sport which they demand of other countries and which they praise in countless speeches and resolutions at the UN and within the European Union.”
Clearly, France is not in this camp. As French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated in a recent interview with L’Equipe: “This subject must not be politicized. I want the Olympic world to make a conscious decision, and I have complete confidence in Thomas Bach (…). I don’t think it’s up to the host state to decide what the IOC should do.“