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A spectator waves the Russia flag during the men's preliminary round ice hockey match between the Olympic Athletes during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung on Feb. 16, 2018.BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/Getty Images

Over the weekend, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo treated Russia like a former husband invited to his ex’s second wedding. For the sake of peace, you can come. But please don’t.

“I want to say to the Russian and Belarusian athletes that they aren’t welcome in Paris,” Hidalgo said during a visit to Kyiv. Since she is the de facto host of Paris 2024, this was big news.

Broadsides on Russia are a regular feature for the Paris mayor, but this was a new tack.

A couple of weeks ago, Hidalgo told Reuters she hoped Russia would be banned by the International Olympic Committee. She spurned it in milder terms: “I prefer that they don’t come.”

Nice dodge. You get the credit for taking a principled stand, but enforcing it is outsourced to a third party.

This is how everyone who has an Olympic opinion, including Canada, has handled Russia for years: ‘I don’t like these people. Why won’t anyone do something?’

At best, it’s disingenuous. At worst, it’s cowardly. If the guest list offends you so much, why do you keep showing up? If you are so determined to let everyone know about your stand, why don’t you take one?

The IOC is off the hook. It cannot and should not ban Russians because they are Russian. That’s not its function.

Its function is to hold a competition to which everyone is invited, regardless of what their countries say or do. All that’s expected of those competitors is that they uphold the rules of the Games.

The IOC could have and maybe should have banned Russia because its athletes were industrial-scale dopers, but that ship has sailed more than once.

That hasn’t stopped anyone – again, including Canada – from continuing to make broad statements of dissatisfaction over Russia, none of which come with even an implied consequence attached. The point is to be seen complaining, however impotently.

But Hidalgo has just hit on a new formulation – ‘You can come because those are the rules, but there is no rule that says I have to like it or you.’

Let’s start with two unstated Olympic principles of the NATO nations – everyone is upset at Russia and would like to see it humiliated somehow; also, everyone wants to go to the Olympics and if that meant competing against an all-star team of war criminals, so be it.

Flaccid moral outrage does not make Russia nervous. Whining to the IOC doesn’t impress it. All those things do is further convince Russia of our weakness. And why not? It’s convinced me.

We were collectively weak throughout the years-long investigation of the cheating machine at Sochi. We made ourselves laughable by stripping Russia of its uniforms and anthems. All that did was turn the Team That Has No Name into the athletic Sex Pistols. Until Ukraine, even I felt like rooting for it.

That the NATO bloc is still pushing this losing strategy 10 years and one war later shows our lack of imagination and spine. If you can’t think up even one sick burn, just one lousy meme that provokes a reaction, how can you expect to win the first digital world war?

Channelling the wisdom of the high-school cafeteria, Hidalgo has found the way forward. Yes, Russia can come. But no, no one likes it.

It hurts to hear when you’re 17 and it hurts just as bad, maybe worse, when you’re an adult. Shunning – it’s the heavy artillery of social warfare.

Shunning absolves athletes of the need to explain why they are against Russia. Explaining is not their strong suit. But everyone knows how to cut someone at a party.

You needn’t even acknowledge you’re doing it in interviews. It’s a body posture or a look or the unwillingness to extend a hand. Words may confuse your point, but turning the other way as someone says ‘Hello’? Everyone everywhere understands what that means. It is an international language.

It’s also a hard thing to do. Much harder than releasing indignant statements into the ether. That’s the point.

If countries are determined to take real stands, it will require some steel. It may make some people uncomfortable. Possibly not as uncomfortable as being bombed for two years, but closer to that than anything that’s been tried so far.

It goes against two great shibboleths of modern social etiquette – never make assumptions about someone because of where they’re from; and you can only be rude to people on the internet, where that is actively encouraged.

But Russia isn’t shy about those things. Every time the IOC does anything, it will happily accuse it of “racism and neo-Nazism.” Russia did that a few days ago. Listen, if it works for you, man, then fair game.

Russia happily uses its athletes as propaganda tools. Why should they be treated as distinct from Russia’s propaganda aims?

So no salutes. No cheers at the opening ceremonies or during competitions. No handshakes. No clapping.

There’s no need to be ill-mannered. People need only act as if Russia isn’t there. Everyone in the world will get their point.

If the idea is impressing upon the Russian government how far outside the norms of international behaviour it has strayed, short of a shooting war, there is no more effective tactic than making it feel unwelcome at dinner. Like it is an un-country.

Since you can’t do that to Russian President Vladimir Putin, you can do it to his travelling international representatives.

That’s a plan. Carrying through with it is another thing. It’s difficult for the average person to treat someone they don’t know with contempt. I doubt many people can manage it.

But as a strategy, it makes more sense than acting outraged over text, then treating Russia like you’re all best buddies when you see it at the party.

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