Olympic promotion - Newspaper Kommersant No. 14 (7459) of 01/26/2023

Olympic promotion - Newspaper Kommersant No. 14 (7459) of 01/26/2023

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), for the first time since the start of a special military operation in Ukraine and initiated by the structure of the almost complete isolation of Russian sports, officially expressed its readiness to complete it. The IOC released a statement according to which it is going to allow admission to international competitions of Russian athletes. True, it will be possible only in a neutral status and if the athlete is not seen in the "active support" of the CBO.

The International Olympic Committee published statementsummarizing the results of the Olympic summit held in December. It was devoted to the most acute problem of world sports in recent months. This is a problem caused by Russia's Special Military Operation (SVO) in Ukraine and its implications for the Russian sports industry. It was the recommendations of the IOC, which appeared shortly after the start of the special operation, that initiated its almost complete isolation. Almost all major sports structures, following the recommendations of the head structure, banned the participation of Russian athletes in international competitions since March last year. Exceptions like tennis, boxing, chess are rare.

Until now, the efforts of the Russian side, trying to overcome the isolation, have not brought any results.

Meanwhile, the content of the statement looks like a breakthrough in this sense. True, it opens with points that formally confirm support for the sanctions policy. Moreover, the document says that the “participants of the consultations” “unanimously” called for their “toughening”, meaning, for example, a ban on holding international tournaments in Russia and Belarus or demonstrating the flags and symbols of these countries at competitions.

However, already in the next part, in fact, it is said about a significant easing of sanctions. Moreover, as the IOC clarifies, the new recommendations were adopted by an “overwhelming majority” of the same “participants in the consultations”. And as a legal basis for them, letters of UN envoys in the field of protecting cultural rights and counteracting modern forms of racism, as well as a resolution of the UN General Assembly are given. The letters express "serious concern" about the suspension of athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus "solely because of their nationality." And the resolution emphasizes that international sports competitions should be "organized in the spirit of peace", and also the need for "respect" for their "unifying and reconciling nature".

Based on this, and adhering to “in times of confrontation and war” the very “unifying” line that the UN emphasized, the IOC announced that “no athlete can be excluded from competitions only because of his passport.”

Thus, the main sports organization proposes to study the possibility of "admission of athletes" from Russia and Belarus to participate in international tournaments. True, subject to a number of "strict conditions".

One of them for Russian athletes, however, is quite familiar. It is the need to compete in a neutral status, which they have had in all the top tournaments, including the Olympics, for the past two years due to doping sanctions. A little more difficult with another condition. The IOC proposes that only athletes who “fully” comply with both the World Anti-Doping Code and the Olympic Charter are allowed to compete. Moreover, in the case of the basic document of the Olympic movement, we are talking about very specific things. An athlete cannot “oppose the peaceful mission of the IOC” by “actively supporting” a special operation in Ukraine.

What is meant by "active support" is not spelled out in the statement. But at least last year's precedents exist. These are, say, disqualifications of various periods that were received from international federations by chess player Sergey Karyakin, swimmer Yevgeny Rylov and gymnast Ivan Kulyak - for an open letter in support of the special operation, participation in a rally-concert in honor of the next anniversary of the annexation of Crimea to Russia and demonstrating the letter Z on the form. The verification of the athletes' compliance with the criteria is entrusted to the international federations.

Insidethegamescommenting on the latest recommendations, recalls that at the end of last year there were signs of "thaw" in the approach to solving the "Russian issue" within the world sports community.

Several high-ranking officials, including the head of the IOC, Thomas Bach, as well as some politicians, made it clear that they were inclined to correct their position. In particular, French President Emmanuel Macron said that sport “cannot be politicized”.

His country will host the next Olympics: it will be held in the summer of 2024 in Paris. And the IOC statement, of course, gives hope to the Russian side that the domestic team, albeit in a reduced composition, will get to it. Moreover, at the end of the document, a reference is made to a story that is directly related to the Olympic Games and, in a sense, even more complex than the current one. In 1992, Yugoslavia was under UN sanctions. At the same time, she called on all states not to allow her representatives to compete on their territory. However, the IOC allowed the Yugoslavs to participate in the Barcelona Olympics as "independent athletes".

The president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, however, gave the IOC statement an extremely reserved assessment. He described it both "as an attempt to take a step towards the athletes" and "at the same time, unfortunately" as "two steps in the opposite direction." “In fact, today’s statement is an attempt to correct a mistake that has already resulted in groundless restrictions for Russian and Belarusian sports for almost a year and has caused great damage to all international sports. The voice of common sense was heard. However, at the same time, we still categorically disagree with any restrictions, additional requirements and sanctions that relate to the nationality of our athletes and are again offered to us as a condition for returning to the international arena,” Mr. Pozdnyakov explained his point of view.

He added that a “corresponding legal assessment of the theses” of the IOC will be carried out: “Based on legal expertise, we will build further interaction with international sports organizations and federations. The priority for us is the same - ensuring the rights and interests of our athletes. On an equal footing, without discrimination."

Alexey Dospekhov

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