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Olympics: IOC claims president Thomas Bach targeted by hoax phone call from Russian group

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Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was claimed to be the target of a hoax phone call from a Russian group pretending to be the African Union Commission.

The IOC said on Thursday that the callers wanted to discuss the issues around Russian involvement at Paris 2024. It follows the Olympics’ governing body banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the opening ceremony earlier this week.

Details released about the call described it as a “new incident in the Russian disinformation and defamation campaign” against the organisation and Bach, who is a German former Olympic fencer.

“Fake calls purporting to be from the African Union Commission appear to have been made by the very same group that has already attacked a number of global political leaders and other high-ranking personalities in the same way,” a statement from the IOC read.

“During the calls, a person pretending to be the chair of the African Union Commission wanted to have arguments, in particular from the IOC against the politicisation of sport by the Russian government, in order to prepare a statement against such politicisation.”

Athletes representing Russia and Belarus were banned from the Olympics following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, but they can compete at the Paris Games as neutrals.

What the IOC decision on the opening ceremony means

Russians and Belarusians who qualify for the Games will be competing as independent athletes without their flags and anthems following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

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Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travels to Paris to unveil the safety plans of the French Government and Olympic organisation as they prepare to host the 2024 Olympic games in the capital city

The opening ceremony on July 26 will see thousands of athletes travel on boats down the River Seine for several miles toward the Eiffel Tower, instead of the normal parade of teams inside a stadium.

“They will not participate in the parade of delegations during the opening ceremony, since they are individual athletes,” the IOC announced following an executive board meeting.

The IOC added athletes from Russia and Belarus who are approved to compete at the Olympics as neutrals will have a chance only “to experience the event” – likely watching from near the river.

The IOC has laid out a vetting procedure for Russian and Belarusian athletes to be granted neutral status, with requirements including that they must not have publicly supported the invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a “special military operation”, or be affiliated with military or state security agencies.

FILE - The Olympic rings are set up at Trocadero plaza that overlooks the Eiffel Tower, a day after the official announcement that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be in the French capital, in Paris on Sept. 14, 2017. The United States is predicted to top the medals tables ... both the overall count and gold-medal count ... for the 2024 Paris Olympics, according to one forecast released on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, six months before the Games open on July 26. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)
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Paris will host this summer’s Olympic Games

The IOC said it expects about 36 neutral athletes with Russian passports and 22 with Belarus passports to qualify for the Paris Games.

A decision on whether those athletes will be allowed to take part in the August 11 closing ceremony will be taken “at a later stage”, the IOC said.

Any medals won by those athletes will not be included in any medal table and they will have a specifically composed anthem with no words.

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