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8 Dec, 2021 17:58

Russia wants to host Olympics – but decision will depend on politics, admits sports ministry

Russia wants to host Olympics – but decision will depend on politics, admits sports ministry

The Russian sports ministry has reiterated the country's interest in hosting the Olympics but conceded that its hopes depend on a "political decision", adding that the US move to boycott Beijing is "counter to geopolitics."

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has previously said that Russia is preparing a bid for the 2036 Games, holding a meeting with the Russian Olympic Committee medalists after the Tokyo 2020 games.

Lavrov said that St. Petersburg and Kazan are among the cities involved, with India, Indonesia, Turkey, the UK and a joint bid between Germany and Israel mooted to be among Russia's rivals for the showpiece.

Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has now suggested again that Russia is ready to host the Games for the first time since 1980.

"We have a powerful sports country with a powerful infrastructure and colossal experience in holding international competitions," he said.

"Of course, we are [dependent on] a certain political decision, because in this case, sport is seen as a means of political unification and development of the country. I do not exclude the possibility that Russia can claim to host the Olympics."

At the summer games in Moscow 41 years ago, 66 countries, including the US, completely boycotted the competition to leave just 80 nations competing, which was the lowest number since 1956.

With the US and Australia now announcing a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Games, which Sochi hosted in 2014 and will be held in Beijing from February 4, Matytsin was asked about the Biden administration's controversial decision .

"I am sure that this will not lead to non-participation of US athletes in the Olympics," he said.

"In the event of a boycott, the country is deprived of the opportunity to participate and host the Games, and we know that, in 2028, the Olympic Games will be held in the United States.

"At least from the point of view of the instinct of self-preservation, I do not think that the United States will take any further steps.

"At a time when the world is experiencing a pandemic and everyone is talking about the need to unite, and the President of the IOC [Thomas Bach] always appeals to the leaders of states so that the Olympic Games are seen as a platform for consolidation, of course, this step by the United States runs counter to geopolitics.

"But I hope this will not affect the participation of American athletes and the image of the Beijing Olympics. We must respect the countries that host the Games.

A former president of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), 57-year-old Matytsin was appointed Sports Minister in January 2020 after Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin formed a new government.

In December last year, he spoke to RT Sport about the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) decision to impose a two-year ban on Russia for an alleged state-sponsored doping program which Russia denied.  

But while he admitted that the sanctions "have negatively impacted and will impact our athletes" and "restrict Russia’s rights to host international sporting events", Matytsin accepted that the punishment could have been far tougher given the four-year term that WADA sought after claiming that a Moscow lab had manipulated data to mask the scheme. 

Athletes from Russia are required to compete under the Russian Olympic Committee banner as a result of the ruling.

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