Written by By Kim T. Knight, CNN
The world’s largest sporting event, the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, has been thrown into turmoil after Switzerland’s top sports body warned about the impact of a new law that would ban undocumented athletes from participating.
The Swiss Olympic body is calling for the law, which defines exploitation as “indirect competition at work” to be repealed before Switzerland hosts the games. The Swiss Federal Commission Against Racism calls it a way to “encourage equality and prevents fair competition among the competent parties,” according to its website.
“Despite the neutral nature of the Olympics, our athletes are subjected to more onerous conditions than athletes in other sports,” the Swiss Olympic body said.
The Swiss federal commission, according to its website, “[strongly] advocates the anti-racism measures including ‘use and control of borderless employees’ and ‘an affirmative action at national level, as well as the decision to revoke illegal entrance visas to participate in the Olympic games or the Olympic movement” in accordance with French law.
“This law doesn’t even apply to foreign athletes in Spain, Italy or Germany, and does not cover foreigners working in Switzerland,” Swiss Olympic said.
The new law, passed in March, came to light after the Swiss Olympic president, Daniel Wieland, reportedly told Swiss broadcaster SRF that he hoped to offer an amnesty for foreigners who could not prove they had a work permit when applying for a work permit in Switzerland, from July 2020.
But he noted in that interview that those eligible would require health certificates, not an “automatic pass” issued by an employment office.
The Swiss sports minister, Paul Gazzola, said at the time that it was impossible to predict the magnitude of the effects of the new law before the law takes effect.
“You don’t know how many unauthorized immigrants will move here in the course of the next few years,” Gazzola said. “That means immigration — quite a large number … We will have to handle them patiently, yet with utmost efficiency.”
In a May 10 statement, the Swiss federal commission emphasized the importance of sports in promoting cohesion between Swiss citizens and non-Swiss residents.
“Sports can be a barometer for the health of the community,” the commission said. “Young people may be productive, ambitious and giving back to their society. Theoretically, they are the future of Switzerland.”
The swiss association responded by stressing the need for regulations of all kinds, with citizenship and immigration “being twin pillars of the Olympic movement.”
“Switzerland is a country of immigrants and millions of them were born in Switzerland or hold a Swiss passport,” the association said. “This means that the movement of workers from other countries has created jobs and increased productivity — which is why Switzerland can take pride in its pioneering legislation.
“That’s why we strongly urge our neighbors in France and Italy not to simply copy Switzerland’s experience.”