Russian President Vladimir Putin shares a glass of champagne with Olympic Committee President Thomas Mann on 24 February 2014, the day marking the end of the Sochi Olympics and start of Russia's occupation of Crimea. Photo: RIA Novosti
The International Olympic Committee has allowed Russian and Belarusian athletes to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics under a neutral flag. To be more precise, they recommended federations to admit athletes to participate in the Olympic competitions. Yes, there are some restrictions – Russians will not compete in team sports, those with contracts with CSKA [Central Sports Club of the Army] will also be excluded, and those actively supporting the war are undesirable. However, the final decision is left to the respective federations.
Does this mean, for example, that gymnast Nikita Nagorny – a three-time world champion, head of the youth military-patriotic public movement “Yunarmia” who called on his fans to send gifts to the invading army soldiers to support their fighting spirit – will not participate in the Olympics? Or will he, if he officially ends his relationship with the Russian National Guard?
Annalena Baerbok, Germany’s Foreign Minister, has already called the IOC’s decision a “slap in the face for the Ukrainian people.”
Explaining the decision, Thomas Bach, the organization’s president, referred to existing precedents. If NHL players with Russian passports are allowed to compete, why can some do it and others cannot? And, of course, the high-ranking sports official assured the general public that this decision is in no way related to his personal relationship with the President of the Russian Federation, with whom they have not been in contact for a year.
However, they sat next to each other at the Olympic tribune in Sochi, and the influential German publication Die Zeit called Bach a “well-paid Russian sports ambassador” because the IOC president constantly makes decisions favorable to Russia, despite Richard McLaren’s report on doping abuses in Russian Olympic sports, and other “incidents.”
I understand that an athlete’s career is short, and they spend their entire lives preparing for the most important competitions of their lives. However, under current circumstances, reasonable Russian athletes can compete under the flag of another country, while Ukrainian athletes not only lack the conditions for training, but they are being killed! Is it right to turn a blind eye to this situation?!
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that Thomas Bach received a bribe, and no one is accusing him of that. However, it is hard not to recall Swiss René Fasel, President of the International Ice Hockey Federation, who tried to push through a decision to hold the Ice Hockey World Championship in Belarus within his organization, and who has now accepted Russian citizenship along with a stake in an agro holding in the Krasnodar Krai.
Regrettably, the IOC has a history of making controversial decisions.
In 1948, the International Olympic Committee awarded a gold medal to Leni Riefenstahl for her film “Olympia,” a documentary epic about the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. The German director did not receive the awarded prize because a denazification commission was studying her activities at that time. Namely, Riefenstahl was the author of the propaganda film “Triumph of the Will,” funded and commissioned by the NSDAP.
Her creative works included several other “ambiguous” films, such as “Day of Freedom! – Our Wehrmacht!” Nevertheless, this did not prevent Juan Antonio Samaranch from presenting 100-year-old Leni Riefenstahl with a medal in Lausanne in 2001. Did the award find its rightful hero?
Returning to the 1936 Olympics, which inspired the global community. By the time they were held, the Nuremberg racial laws were already in effect. Pierre de Coubertin, the honorary president of the IOC, called Hitler “one of the best creative spirits of our era,” and in his speech at the closing of the Berlin Olympics, urged the Nazis to “resist the disloyal and vile attacks of those who try to halt the progressive creative work.”
The German team, which did not admit German Jews, won the team championship at the 1936 Olympic Games, which was extremely important to Hitler personally. Whether the athletes want it or not, they serve as propaganda tools for the regime they represent. Coubertin was well aware of this, which is why he opposed the participation of Soviet teams in the Olympic movement.
I quoted the founder of modern Olympism without intending to tarnish his reputation. Everyone makes mistakes. Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, died in 1937 before witnessing the external aggression of Nazi Germany. But now the situation is obvious! Why walk into the same trap?
Gloria and Gerda Griffon are publicists from California, sisters in both spirit and profession. They are Ukrainians by spirit and by passport (one of the sisters). They are the authors of several collections of historical and cultural essays and the novel “Paradise Touched,” based on the events of 2014 in Ukraine.
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Tags: 2024 Olympics