Russia Won’t Keep Athletes Home, Putin Says After Olympics Ban

Russia Won’t Keep Athletes Home, Putin Says After Olympics Ban


“Undoubtedly, we will not declare any blockade, will not prevent our Olympic athletes from participating, if any one of them wants to participate in their personal capacity,” Interfax quoted the Russian president as saying during a visit to a factory in the city of Nizhny Novgorod.

Mr. Putin’s remarks were delivered after a day of vociferous national discussion.

Some Russians, including many senior officials, lambasted the conditions imposed by the International Olympic Committee as an indignity and called for a boycott. Others, perhaps more sympathetic to the plight of the athletes, said that Russians should compete whether they carried the flag or not.

Most Muscovites hurrying through a pelting snowstorm said they considered the ban yet another politicized decision meant to punish Russia.

“In their place I would not go to the Olympics,” said Nadezhda Lazereva, a middle-aged women clutching shopping bags and burying her head inside a large, furry hood. “It is a political decision, 100 percent.”

Maria Zakharova, the spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, struck a common theme with a post on her Facebook page saying there was a constant onslaught from the West aimed at destroying Russia — world wars, the collapse of the Soviet Union and, lately, economic sanctions.

“They are always trying to put us down in everything — our way of life, our culture, our history, and now sport as well,” she wrote.

State television, which often receives Kremlin guidelines for its reporting, was notably muted, even conciliatory, even before Mr. Putin had spoken. It noted that the committee had acknowledged that Russia has tried to improve matters; that the country could appeal the decision; and that the entire affair might turn out fine. There was a marked lack of the usual jingoism, although one main state broadcaster announced within minutes of the ban that it would not show the Games.

The ban thrust Russia into its greatest international sporting crisis since before the Soviet Union collapsed, when the West led a boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow over the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. The Kremlin later reciprocated, withdrawing its bloc of countries from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

In Moscow, Vladimir Yakovchuk, a man in his 50s in a red jacket and walking down the street with his wife, groused that Russian athletes were being singled out for punishment while doping was clearly an international problem. He also hated the idea of competing under the Olympic flag.

“It will be humiliating!” he said in Russian. “They’ll be like refugees.”

But an occasional voice did mention the cause of the ban and suggest that Russia address the doping problem.

“It seems like a fair decision — there are problems in our sports with doping,” said Nikolai Lorkin, a young man with short hair and trendy eyeglasses, who blamed the Ministry of Sport in particular. “It’s impossible to do something on such a large scale without government support.”

Nevertheless, the athletes should go ahead and compete under a neutral flag, he said. “This opportunity should not be taken away.”

Russia fielded a team of 232 athletes for the 2014 Games, which it hosted at the southern resort of Sochi. It dominated there, winning 33 medals, 13 of them gold. The International Olympic Committee has now retroactively banned 25 Russians who competed in Sochi for doping offenses, stripping 11 medals, and the investigations continue.

Those athletes who were expected to be allowed to compete in the Games will convene on Dec. 12 to decide whether to attend, Mikhail Degtyarev, the head of the Russian Parliament’s culture and sports committee, told reporters.

The athletes themselves seemed divided. Some announced that they wanted to compete. Others demurred, especially in the face of earlier calls to label any who competed “traitors” and to strip them of their citizenship.

Various famous Russian sports figures also weighed in.

Yelena G. Isinbayeva, a champion pole-vaulter, who won gold medals in 2004 and 2008 but was barred from the 2016 Rio de Janeiro games along with much of the rest of the Russian track and field team despite never failing a drug test, urged her fellow athletes to go. They would still be identified as Russian, she told the news channel Rossiya 24: “Their rivals will know that they are from Russia — it will simply be a slightly different interpretation.”

Tatiana Navka, an Olympic gold medalist ice dancer now married to the Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, called the ban a “total injustice” in a post on Instagram but urged that athletes be allowed to decide for themselves whether to go.

To make it to the Olympics, not to mention fighting your way to the medal podium, required enduring “a huge, backbreaking path,” she wrote.

“Many athletes have already proven that they are the best on the planet, and not to give them the opportunity to win an Olympic medal, to get what they have sought their entire lives, is tantamount to murder.”

Mr. Putin, prone to ascribing all the ills that befall Russia as the product of an American-led plot rather than the result of any domestic, Kremlin-lead chicanery, had also described the Olympics scandal as a possible attempt to tarnish his campaign for re-election in the presidential vote in March.

“What concerns me?” he said during a factory tour last month. “When will the Olympics take place? February, isn’t it? And when is the presidential election? March. I suspect that all of this is done to create conditions on someone’s behalf to provoke sport fans’ and athletes’ anger that the state allegedly had something to do with it.”

Boycott supporters organized a #NoRussiaNoGames campaign, arguing that the country should prove that the games would be anemic without Russia. But most sports analysts and others said there was no need to punish athletes who deserved the chance to compete.

Among them was Anton Shipulin, a Russian biathlete who won a team gold in Sochi that has not been revoked over doping. He hoped for an individual gold in South Korea. Similarly, Yevgenia Medvedeva, 18, is a two-time world champion figure skater with a chance at a medal in South Korea that may not come again.

“She is now in peak form,” Aleksei Durnovo, sports commentator on the radio station Echo of Moscow, said in an interview. “This is her chance to win. In figure skating, if you are not a champion by 16 or 17, then you are in decline.”





Source link

About The Author

Momizat Team specialize in designing WordPress themes … Momizat Team specialize in designing WordPress themes

Related posts

Leave a Reply