Strip flags and anthems from boycotters at Beijing Olympics – Russian official
Russia's deputy prime minister has argued that countries staging a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics should have their flags and anthems removed while taking part at the spectacle.
Dmitry Chernyshenko was part of the local organizing committee for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and has joined a throng of Russian officials that have criticized the boycott.
Last month, the United States confirmed it would not be sending diplomats to the event, which kicks off in Beijing on February 4.
The step was followed by the UK, Australia, and Canada, in a supposed sign of protest at China's human rights record. Japan also announced it will not be sending any government officials to the event.
A day after a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman claimed that a list of what is believed to be 18 American officials had applied for Chinese visas despite Washington's posturing, Russian Deputy PM Chernyshenko said that boycotts have never been useful.
"Boycotts have never brought benefits, everyone will remember this with bitterness," Cherynshenko told journalists, according to RIA Novosti.
"It’s a pity that the US State Department is playing this card again.
"As soon as the Olympics arrive, they get out these templates again.
"I think it would be fair to remove the flags and anthems [of the countries] who boycott [the Games]," he suggested.
Russian officials have long criticized the boycott even before it was announced, with President Vladimir Putin planning to attend the Opening Ceremony at the invitation of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
"Sports – like art – have to unite people, not drive them apart, drive nations and governments apart," said Putin recently at his annual media conference.
"And when sport has this fundamental part of it taken away this damages the entire community.
"There are many ways to support relationships and partnerships between countries but, with these policies, politicians guided by short-term interests demolish these ways to improve relations," he concluded.
Four-time Russia Olympic champion Alexander Tikhonov said that "the diplomatic boycott of the Games by the Americans is a holiday for the rest of the world."
"The United States is the most painful place on earth; it's [a] cancer. Look how much blood and trouble they have [caused]," raged the legendary biathlete to RIA.
"It's great that their officials will not be at the Olympics. I hope, thanks to this, the games will be held peacefully and without scandals."