Monday, January 24

Russia in everything but name: ROC team goes to Tokyo with siege mentality | Russia Olympic Team

As Russian athletes begin competing in the Tokyo Olympics this week, where they are prohibited from using their country’s name, flag or anthem, they enter the competition with a siege mentality.

Since 2014, the country’s athletes have been affected by the revelations of the Sochi doping scandal and the ensuing cover-ups, as well as a host of other conflicts and disputes that have chilled Moscow’s relations with many Western countries. These are the third Olympics in which its athletes and delegates have faced scrutiny for doping charges.

So days before the games started, Russian media revealed that the Olympic Committee had given athletes a cheat sheet on how to avoid media inquiries about doping, annexation of Crimea, sexual harassment and even athletes who knelt in support of Black Lives Matter.

The document, revealed for the first time by the newspaper Vedomosti, advised the athletes consulted on BLM to tell journalists that supporting the movement is a personal choice, but that “the Olympic Games should in no case become a platform for any type of protests or gestures.”

Regarding questions about sexual harassment, the suggested answer was: “I have never encountered it in my career, but I know that this problem exists in many countries.”

And as for the questions about doping and sanctions from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada), they were advised to say that they have nothing to say about it.

Officials said the guide existed to protect athletes from “provocations” by activists and the international media that may target one of the world’s most controversial sports teams. “Information spreads very quickly and any sloppy response that specially trained people can expertly give can affect the athlete extremely negatively,” the document reads. A spokesman for the Russian Olympic Committee said the organization had sought to “minimize the risks for members of our team and delegation.”

But it also points to the many enemies Russia sees in international sport, including activists and the media, foreign countries, anti-doping regulators, and the International Olympic Committee.

Russia appears to be caught between its desire to fight doping charges and sanctions on its Olympic team, and the hope that if its athletes go and stick with the sport, the Russian flag may soon return to competition. Senior officials have been careful in their criticism of Wada and the IOC, saying only that their main concern is supporting athletes.

“The issue of the politicization of sport, unfortunately, remains relevant and has not been removed from the agenda,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said late last month in some of his only comments on the upcoming Olympics. “The rights and interests of our athletes must be protected from any arbitrariness.”

Pro-government media commentators have been more aggressive in attacking the doping ban, which they have described as an extension of geopolitics. “Everything is politicized in this world,” complained Tina Kandelaki, a Russian TV presenter and public relations specialist, who also pointed to the rigged vote in Eurovision and disputes arbitration decisions in Euro 2020 in an emotional post on Instagram asking the Russians supporting the Olympic team. .

Along with Timati, a rapper and entrepreneur who previously appeared on a track called My Best Friend is President Putin, she has asked her followers to post Instagram stories with the hashtag #wewillROCyou (Russian athletes are officially recognized as members of the Republic of China, an abbreviation for Russian Olympic Committee).

“All these humiliations from Wada, these constant bans and restrictions, will just energize [us]”Kandelaki wrote. So far, the hashtag has just over 1,700 posts on Instagram.

But otherwise, it has been a run-up to the Olympics in Russia, where recent sports coverage has been dominated by Euro 2020 and the firing of Stanislav Cherchesov after the Russian team crashed in the group stage.

Coverage of the preparation for the Olympics has focused primarily on the marginality of how Russia’s ongoing punishment for doping offenses will be applied.

Russian gold medalists will stand on the podium and listen to Piano Concerto No. 1 by composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky instead of the national anthem. The flag is prohibited but their uniforms will feature the national colors of white, blue and red. And the synchronized swimming team has complained that their swimsuit design was rejected because it featured a depiction of a bear.

“[The rules] it must be implemented, ”said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, when asked about the incident earlier this month. Then he joked: “Let’s look at this issue from another angle: the IOC has officially recognized the bear as a symbol of Russia.”

The ROC team, as Russia will be called, is still expected to take third place in the medal table. And when it comes to all the other topics, athletes have been told that the easiest way to end a conversation is simple: “No comment.”

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