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Sporting nation at war - Russia at odds over Olympic participation

Because of the war against Ukraine, the former sporting power Russia is internationally ostracized. However, individual athletes are still allowed to compete at the Olympics - but a dispute is also raging in Moscow.

Conditions for Russian athletes - Sporting nation at war - Russia at odds over Olympic participation

Russia, once such a proud sporting nation, is deeply conflicted about the Olympics in Paris. The International Olympic Committee's conditions for the participation of Russian athletes in the Summer Games have also led to a simmering debate about a boycott. The IOC's conditions are unacceptable, Irina Winer, President of the Rhythmic Gymnastics Federation, has just complained in Moscow's state media. If the Russian gymnasts compete "without a flag, without an anthem, without fans", then that is "humiliating".

All of the country's sports federations should stay away from the Games in Paris from July 26 to August 11, demands the 75-year-old, an ardent supporter of the war of aggression against Ukraine launched by Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin. "No, we will not fall to our knees, we will not "surrender" in a white costume and with a white flag," Winer also told the Russian military television station Zvezda.

According to the IOC, only individual athletes from Russia are allowed to compete at the Olympics, teams are excluded. The athletes may not - as is often the case - belong to an army sports club, nor may they support Russia's war against Ukraine. Another condition is that they may only participate under a neutral flag - as was the case with the sanctions for state doping.

Russian politician: participation in the 2024 Olympics is "betrayal"

Russian politicians have therefore recently suggested that athletes should not be granted state support for the trip to Paris. The first deputy head of the defense committee in the Russian parliament, Alexei Zhuravlyov, even compared participation in the Olympics to "betrayal". He suggested "additional consultations" for the travelers to clarify "whether they support Russian policy".

Russian President Putin, who has long been closely associated with IOC boss Thomas Bach, has repeatedly campaigned for a politics-free Olympic Games. The 71-year-old also recently warned explicitly against "ethnic discrimination" against Russians in sport.

Belarus, which supports Putin's war against Ukraine, is also affected by the sanctions. In December, Putin finally argued that it should be left to the athletes themselves to decide whether or not to take part.

Putin is also aware that the majority of Russians cannot compete in Paris under any circumstances, if only because they are members of a sports club affiliated with the army or other security structures in the country. The state-sponsored athletes are usually a source of adornment for the power apparatus - Putin has repeatedly awarded the best of them high military ranks after their successful participation in the Olympics.

Some athletes change their "sporting citizenship"

In the past, around half of these participants in the Games were often connected to these security structures, as the newspaper "Vedomosti" reported. Not all of them want to be labeled as staunch supporters of war today. But clear words against the war are still rare among Russia's athletes.

And even in Paris, the few Olympic starters from Russia are likely to be seen by many as representatives of the warring nation. Ukraine, in particular, which is under attack from Moscow, has always called for Russia to be completely excluded and accused the IOC of caving in to Putin.

Even among Russian athletes, there is no uniform picture with regard to Paris. According to the media in Moscow, dozens of Russians have changed their "sporting citizenship" in order to compete for other countries at the Olympics.

Some, such as two-time Olympic swimming champion Yevgeny Rylov, have decided not to take part in the Olympics. Others, such as the high jump world champion Marija Lassizkene, still want to train in order to be in shape in the event of admission. The World Athletics Federation continues to exclude Russians and Belarusians from its competitions.

World Friendship Games to be held in Moscow in September

The head of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROK), Stanislav Posdnyakov, recently emphasized that the athletes would have to decide anyway whether to take part in the Olympics in Paris or - as Moscow is now tempting - in the first World Friendship Games. The World Friendship Games are planned for September 15-29 in Moscow and Yekaterinburg.

A promotional film talks about a new world sporting event for people from all "corners of the planet" and "significant prize money". The friendly matches, other new international competitions and a major sports parade on Red Square ordered by Putin, as in Soviet times, are intended to console Russia's isolation.

Ten years ago, Putin himself presented himself as a proud host at the Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea. A few days after the end of the 2014 Games, he annexed the Crimean peninsula and escalated the situation in eastern Ukraine. Today, instead of Olympic joy, the athletes are supposed to express their jubilant patriotism over the imperial annexation of Ukrainian territories.

However, the debate about participation in Paris is far from over. The ROK has now decided to pay compensation to former Olympic participants who are guaranteed not to go to Paris. The compensation ranges from 150,000 roubles for ordinary former participants to 500,000 roubles (around 5,000 euros) for Olympic champions. However, only one amount is paid per person - regardless of how many medals he or she has.

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