IOC and Russia: – Sport
A few days ago, tennis player Marta Kostjuk was amazed at the attention she was suddenly receiving from the highest Olympic circles. Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (I.O.C), had just mentioned the final at the WTA tournament in Texas, which the Ukrainian Kostjuk had won against the Russian Varvara Grachewa. From this you can see, said Bach, that Ukrainian and Russian athletes have long since been playing sports peacefully with each other again – as, according to the order, pardon me, on the latest recommendation of the IOC, it should be the case again in all Olympic sports from now on.
Kostjuk took this argument apart in a press round with various Olympic athletes. She said that first of all she had no real choice to refuse such a game. The world ranking system tennis would punish her otherwise, “I would lose my position in the rankings,” she said, “my career would be over.” In fact, it seemed curious that Bach just mentioned Kostjuk’s game in Texas. After her victory, the Ukrainian refused to shake hands with Gracheva, as is customary in tennis etiquette. The case had rushed through the news columns worldwide.
In any case, Kostjuk took her new fame as an opportunity to venture out of the backrooms of diplomacy: “We haven’t done this publicly so far,” she said – she apparently meant the Ukrainian tennis players and the association – “but we’ve been trying for a year To ban athletes from Russia and Belarus from our sport.” Unfortunately, as a tennis pro, you are dependent, so to speak, you work for the professional associations WTA and ATP: “We don’t have much power to bring about change.”
But the “agony” that every match against an athlete from Russia or Belarus, one could very well describe them. This part was taken over by Kostjuk’s compatriot Lessja Zurenko, who had also unintentionally been in the spotlight recently: Zurenko had withdrawn before her third round because the circumstances (and an allegedly cool conversation with WTA boss Steve Simon) had given her panic attacks.
Interior Minister Nancy Faeser spoke of a “slap in the face of the athletes”
The German fencer and spokeswoman for athletes Lea Krüger pointed out that the symbolism of many sports competitions already contradicts the idea of peace that the IOC is now claiming for its integration of Russian and Belarusian athletes. “How could a Ukrainian fencer fight a Russian again? fencing – each with weapons in hand?” asked Krüger.
Thomas Bach, the heavily grilled IOC President, was now in another press round on Thursday in the Olympic mother ship in Lausanne. He spoke of an allegedly huge response to his new IOC recommendations to admit Russian athletes under allegedly strict conditions, without a flag, anthem or other state insignia. He spoke of “some negative reactions, especially from some European governments.” Just who was meant?
It must hurt Bach that once again it is precisely the politics of his homeland that are massively criticizing his course; Minister of the Interior Nancy Faser had spoken of a “slap in the face of the athletes”. In any case, the German IOC President complained that it was “deplorable” – which can be translated as both regrettable and pathetic – that some governments would interfere in the decisions of autonomous sport. He spoke of “double standards” – a particularly original objection, considering how naturally the IOC and its affiliated broadcasting companies have been receiving government grants for decades. Then he spoke of 70 global conflicts that these governments would never mention. Bach named athletes in Yemen whose livelihoods were bombed out of eleven million children there alone who were at risk of starvation – and thus indiscriminately lumped together fundamentally different conflicts and circumstances.
But that’s an interesting point, a reporter asked: Isn’t it ambiguous for the IOC to just want Russia’s athletes to appear under a neutral banner? What about the 69 other aggressors? Well, said Bach, Russia “blatantly” broke the Olympic truce when in February 2022 it Ukraine raided around the Beijing Winter Games. And all the other 69 conflicts had a ceasefire at that time?
In any case, Bach found that his IOC had found “a certain middle ground” all in all. One can see that from the fact that the IOC verdict was also classified as an “absolute farce” by Moscow. Hopefully we can now move forward together on this middle ground. Not only the tennis player Marta Kostjuk should see it a little differently.