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18 Apr, 2022 13:59

Putin hasn’t forgotten important sports meeting, Kremlin says

Russia’s Olympic heroes are still awaiting a meeting with their president
Putin hasn’t forgotten important sports meeting, Kremlin says

Russian President Vladimir Putin has not forgotten his nation’s Olympic and Paralympic stars and will hold a meeting with them despite the delay since the Beijing Winter Games, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we will inform you in due course [about a meeting],” Peskov told reporters on Monday when asked about the occasion.

“I can only say that this meeting has not taken place so far, but this doesn’t mean that the president has forgotten, he will definitely hold such a meeting.”

Putin has traditionally feted Russian Olympians and Paralympians at a special ceremony at the Kremlin, although this year the situation has evidently been complicated by the onset of the military campaign in Ukraine.

The Beijing Winter Olympics – the Opening Ceremony of which Putin attended after a meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping – came to a close on February 20.

Moscow’s offensive against Ukraine began four days later and led to Russian and Belarusian athletes being banned from the Beijing Paralympics just one day before the event got underway on March 4.

Instead, Russian and Belarusian Paralympians took part at an alternative competition titled ‘We are Together. Sport’, organized by Russia and held in the Siberian sporting resort of Khanty-Mansiysk.

Putin has promised to meet Russia’s Olympic heroes and Paralympians who missed out on the Beijing Games.

Russian skiing officials suggested last month that the meeting could be held on April 6, although that date came and went without any official news.

But based on the Kremlin’s comments on Monday, Putin is still intent on celebrating his nation’s sporting success.

Competing as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC), Russian athletes left the 2022 Beijing Winter Games with a haul of 32 medals, behind only Norway in terms of the overall tally.

That included six gold medals, three of which were won by cross-country skiing star Alexander Bolshunov. There was also gold medal joy for Russia in the figure skating team event, while Anna Shcherbakova claimed the individual ladies’ figure skating title. Russia’s 4x5km women’s cross-country relay team also topped the podium in China.

Following the launch of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, the IOC issued a recommendation on February 28 for federations across all sports not to invite Russian and Belarusian athletes to tournaments.

That step has since been followed by a host of federations but has led to accusations of the “politicization” of sport and discrimination towards Russians.

Putin accused the IOC last month of “trampling” on Olympic ideals by instigating sweeping sanctions against Russian and Belarusian athletes.

The current situation has also had an impact on the prizes Russian medal winners will receive for their performances in Beijing.

Difficulties with the delivery of foreign cars such as BMWs – a traditional reward for Russian stars – means that cash prizes will be given out instead to some sportsmen and women.