Kosovo Olympic authorities have asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to open disciplinary proceedings against Novak Djokovic, accusing the Serb of stirring up political tension by saying “Kosovo is the heart of Serbia” at the French Open.
Djokovic wrote the message on a camera lens following his first-round win on Monday, the same day that 30 NATO peacekeeping troops were hurt in clashes with Serb protesters in the Kosovo town of Zvecan where Djokovic’s father grew up.
“Kosovo is our cradle, our stronghold, center of the most important things for our country,” 36-year-old told Serbian media.
Serbian authorities said 52 protesters were wounded in the clashes. The violence erupted after ethnic Albanian mayors took office in northern Kosovo’s Serb-majority area following elections that were boycotted by the Serbs.
Serbian TV reported that “vandals” had destroyed a mural bearing the image of Djokovic on a building in Orahovac, a town in south-western Kosovo where a small number of Serbs live amongst the majority Albanians.
The world No. 3 later said he was against any kind of conflict, but defended his statement and described Kosovo’s situation as a “precedent.”
“Novak Djokovic has yet again promoted the Serbian nationalists’ propaganda and used the sport platform to do so,” Olympic Committee of Kosovo president Ismet Krasniqi said in a statement.
“The further post-match statements made by such a public figure without any feeling of remorse, directly result in raising the level of tension and violence between the two countries,” he added, urging the IOC to investigate “by opening disciplinary proceedings against the athlete.”
French Minister of Sports and Olympic and Paralympic Games Amelie Oudea-Castera, whose country is hosting the summer Olympics in Paris next year, said Djokovic’s message was “not appropriate, clearly.”
“There is a principle of neutrality for the field of play. When you carry messages about defending human rights, messages that bring people together around universal values, a sports person is free to express them,” she told French television. “But in this case, it was a message that is very activist, that is very political. You shouldn’t get involved, especially in the current circumstances, and it shouldn’t happen again.”
Djokovic has said he was not holding back and would do it again.
The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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