Estonian Olympic chief: ‘Russian athletes should come back later, not earlier’ | New
“Top sport is also a political area, where different political forces are at play,” said Järvela. “They are not the kind that we are used to seeing in the political arena (openly), but there are movements happening here and there. There are a significant number of people who want to allow Russian athletes and Belarusians – admittedly as neutrals, i.e. without their national flags or national anthems – to return in greater numbers to the competitive arena,” he explained.
“This initiative came from the International Olympic Committee a few weeks ago, it was first leaked in the American media and now the International Ski Federation Secretary General, Michel Vion, has been quite explicit about what The plan is supposedly to try to get (Russian and Belarusian athletes) back into competition in some form or another, starting in December,” Järvela said.
“No decision has been made. Two weeks ago IOC President Thomas Bach held a videoconference with (representatives of) all the Olympic committees. And there he floated the idea,” he said. said Siim Sukles, Secretary General of the Estonian Olympic Committee. .
“Which is actually true. The fact is that Russian and Belarusian athletes will eventually return to sport. It’s only a matter of time. That’s why Bach said that we will get used to the fact that they would come back. However, he didn’t talk about a timeline. It’s just that now the ball is on, some are talking about December, some are talking about next spring. But the war is not endless, I hope that it won’t last a hundred years, so it’s clear that (eventually) Russian and Belarusian athletes will come back. We just think it’s better for it to happen later than sooner.”
In recent weeks, new decisions have been taken to block the return of Russian athletes to high-level sports competition. European football governing body UEFA has announced that Russia will not be allowed to participate in the 2024 European Championships, while Russian and Belarusian athletes are also banned from competing by the International Biathlon Union ( IBU) and the International Skating Union (ISU).
“As football plays a major role in the world of sport and in Europe, the fact that UEFA has taken such a bold decision is a good example for other sports to follow. However, other sports generally do not have the financial autonomy for UEFA and football. Why has Russia been allowed to cheat so much in sport over the years? After all, it has ruined several Olympics with its doping scandals, but without really effective sanction, without Russian athletes being excluded from the Olympics, for example,” said Järvela.
“The reason is that they still have a lot of power, which they have accumulated over the years in international sport through softer means. There are a number of international sports federations that depend on Russian money one way or another. That’s how they built their position in international sport.”
Asked which countries on the IOC video call were in favor of Bach’s suggestion that Russian and Belarusian athletes return to top-level sport, and which were against, Sukles said there was a range of points. point of view, pointing out that the IOC itself does not have the final say on who participates and does not participate in sporting events.
“We have to understand that the IOC runs the whole world, which means there are highly developed countries and less developed countries (involved),” Sukles replied.
“There really wasn’t a lot of support for the president’s ideas in Europe. It’s (mostly) those from other continents, whose representatives said his ideas were right. There wasn’t a lot of support. enthusiasm on the part of the European representatives, but there was no public demonstration of opposition either. Obviously, video conferences like this, in front of the whole world, are not the place to start expressing grievances,” Sukles said.
“After all, the IOC is only responsible for the management of the Olympic Games and simply makes recommendations to the (sports) federations. It is up to the federations themselves to decide whether someone can compete or not,” explained Sukles.
“If we think back to February, I was surprised that the IOC made a statement saying that Russian and Belarusian athletes had no place in the world sports system, just ten days after the start of the war. It was one of the quickest reactions we’ve ever seen from the IOC. And then the federations started to follow suit.”
“I would say at that point (some) political circles and countries realized that a very clear decision had been made, and so the sanctions started to come in. Maybe the IOC was one first to respond to this war,” Sukles said. “And now it’s also clear that Russia and Belarus have a lot of influence and money in sports, and that’s starting to come into play. There are 205 countries in the world, (and it seems to some) that only (the views of) countries that take this war seriously are counted. (Russia’s war in Ukraine) is not the biggest problem facing African and Asian countries. And c It’s always the main concern of such a large global organization (like the IOC) that everyone is treated equally,” explained Sukles.
Järvela cited shooting, chess, weightlifting and fencing among international federations with strong Russian influence, with Uzbek-born Russian businessman Alizher Usmanov among the biggest donors. “There are areas where Russia’s contribution is extremely important. It remains to be seen whether these sports have already taken steps in this direction. They are waiting for some kind of direction, and they will not do anything. But, as we’ve heard from Bach, that advice might come sometime during the fall,” Järvela said.
“Tennis, motorsport and martial arts are still open (to Russian athletes) at the moment, and gymnastics is flirting with the idea. There are currently only three sports that have clearly said they can participate. “said Sukles.
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