Russia Says it Won't Send Wrestlers to the Paris Olympics as Neutrals

The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite.  - The AP
The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite. - The AP
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Russia Says it Won't Send Wrestlers to the Paris Olympics as Neutrals

The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite.  - The AP
The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite. - The AP

Russia said on Saturday that 10 of its wrestlers who were offered spots at the Paris Olympics as neutrals will refuse to compete.

The Russian wrestling federation said in a statement that its officials, coaches and athletes held a meeting and “came to an unanimous decision — to refuse to participate in the Olympic Games.”

The wrestlers would have been the largest group of Russians in any one sport competing in Paris under the Individual Neutral Athlete program launched by the International Olympic Committee to allow some athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to compete during the war in Ukraine, The AP reported.

The IOC previously said it invited 10 Russian wrestlers to the Paris Olympics and its website listed nine of them as having agreed to compete, with one who declined.

The IOC didn't immediately respond to a request to comment on Saturday's statement by the Russian wrestling federation, whether it thought the wrestlers had faced any pressure to refuse, and whether it would support any wrestler who might wish to compete against the wishes of the federation.

The federation said it objected to the IOC’s choice of which wrestlers to invite. It said Russians had qualified up to 16 spots for the Paris Olympics, not 10, and that six of those invited were “far from the status of Russian team leaders.” The federation listed the names of top Russian wrestlers who didn’t get invitations and said the Olympic event would now be devalued.

“Any sane person understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the most significant sporting event is being questioned, and wrestling competitions without Russian athletes will be incomplete, and the champions will not receive the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” the statement said.

The IOC previously said it would only issue invitations to Russian and Belarusian athletes who do not have ties to the security services or military, and who have not publicly supported the war. They would compete in neutral uniforms and would not compete under the national flag.

Some Russian athletes and officials have favored competing at the Paris Olympics under those conditions, and others have called for boycotts. The wrestling federation had sent athletes to take part in qualifying competitions, unlike some other Russian sports bodies.

Last week, the Russian judo federation said its board had decided not to send any athletes to Paris. Its statement didn't specify what its athletes thought.



Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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Paris Police Sealing Off Seine River Ahead of Olympics Opening Ceremony

People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People carry their bikes up a staircase to get around a security area closed off for the 2024 Summer Olympics, Thursday, July 18, 2024, in Paris. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

A special kind of iron curtain came down across central Paris on Thursday, with the beginning of an Olympic anti-terrorism perimeter along the banks of the River Seine sealing off a kilometers-long area to Parisians and tourists who hadn’t applied in advance for a pass.
The words on many lips were “QR code,” the pass that grants access beyond snaking metal barriers that delineate the security zone set up to protect the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony on July 26.
“I didn’t know it started today,” said Emmanuelle Witt, a 35-year-old communications freelancer who was stopped by police near the Alma bridge while biking across town. She desperately went on her phone to fill out the online form to get her QR code, unaware that the vetting process could take several days, The Associated Press reported.
Those with the precious code – either on their phones or printed out on pieces of paper – passed smoothly past police checkpoints at gaps in the barriers taller than most people.
Those without got mostly turned away – with no amount of grumbling and cajoling making officers budge.
“That’s too much, that’s over the top, that whole thing is a pain,” grumbled Nassim Bennamou, a delivery man who was denied access to the street leading to Notre Dame Cathedral on his scooter.
“Even the GPS is confused, I have no idea how I’m going to work today,” he added.
While authorities announced the code system last year and have been meeting with local residents for months to explain the restrictions, not everyone was aware. Officers patiently explained to visitors without the pass how to reach iconic Paris monuments without going through the restricted zone.
“We had no idea we needed a QR code,” said Takao Sakamoto, 55, who was denied access to the Eiffel Tower near the Bir Hakeim Metro station. Visiting from Japan with his wife, he took a photo of the tower from a distance, behind fences and police cars. “That will do,” Sakamoto remarked with despair.
On the other hand, visitors who were lucky enough to come across officers who leniently let them pass without QR codes and others who'd equipped themselves with them were treated to the sight of near-empty riverside boulevards that, in normal times, heave with traffic.
“There's no one around!” sang a happy cyclist on a street he had largely to himself. With police seemingly everywhere, another man walking past a riverside café with fewer than usual customers loudly quipped: “You can leave your money and cell phones on the tables, there's definitely no thieves!”
“It’s surreal, it really feels like we’re the only ones here,” said Sarah Bartnicka from Canada. Enjoying a morning jog with a friend, the 29-year-old took a selfie with a police officer on the deserted Iéna bridge to capture the moment.
Paris has repeatedly suffered deadly extremist attacks, most notably in 2015. Up to 45,000 police and gendarmes as well as 10,000 soldiers are being deployed for Olympic security.
“I understand why they’re doing this,” said Carla Money, a 64-year-old American who managed to pass the barriers with her family.
Some business owners inside the security zone grumbled that sharply reduced foot-fall would hurt their bottom line.
“They’ve locked me up like a prisoner," said Raymond Pignol. His restaurant, L'Auberge Café, near the Pont Neuf that spans the Seine, is just inside the metal fencing.
The perimeter went into effect early Thursday morning and will last through the ceremony. As an exception, Paris has decided to hold the opening of its first Games in a century on the river rather than in a stadium, like previous host cities. Most of the river security measures will be lifted after the show.
Officers were under instructions to be polite and patient as employees on their way to work and others dealt with the perimeter and the passes for the first time. But Paris police chief Laurent Nunez said that after the initial 24 hours of being accommodating, officers would apply the rules much more firmly, with no more looking the other way for those without QR codes.