Global sport starting to realize error of Russian bans – minister
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has warned that global sport cannot hope to develop “normally” without the role of Russia – something which he says international federations have already begun to realize.
Russian athletes currently find themselves sidelined from competitions across a wide range of sports after bans imposed in the wake of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine.
But Matytsin said that situation would inevitably change as numerous sports deprive themselves of the participation of stars from the world’s biggest country.
“We see that international sport has already begun to understand that without Russia, they have no normal development,” said Matytsin on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg Economic Forum (SPIEF), in comments shared by Match TV.
“That’s why sooner or later we’ll be able to return to the international arena.
“At the same time, we are a large, strong and self-sufficient country, which, as we see, is ready to cope with even the most difficult challenges.”
Matytsin’s words echo those of Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) president Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who said earlier this month that federations which had moved to ban Russians had done so in a frenzy of “Russophobic hysteria.”
“By regularly contacting our foreign colleagues on practical issues, we note that the internal position of many of them is gradually being corrected,” said Pozdnyakov.
“It is understood that sooner or later they will have to somehow get out of the situation in which they were driven under unprecedented external pressure and Russophobic hysteria.”
A host of sports federations imposed bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes following a recommendation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the end of February.
IOC chief Thomas Bach has since defended that position, claiming that the organization has only targeted the Russian leadership with sanctions and that bans are partly for the athletes’ own safety.
Figures in Russia have condemned the IOC’s stance, accusing it of undermining the principle of sport being outside of politics and arguing that measures against Russian and Belarusian athletes are discriminatory.
Authorities in some sports such as tennis have allowed players to compete under neutral status, although even that position has been contradicted by the likes of the Grand Slam at Wimbledon, which has been widely criticized for imposing its own ban on stars from Russia and Belarus.
Also speaking at SPIEF on Thursday, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko said sanctions had brought opportunities as well as challenges.
“This is a time of opportunity for us. The sanctions have created a large number of problems, but now we need to use this opportunity in many areas, including technological and economic security, to ensure the sovereignty of our country,” said Chernyshenko, who is a key figure in Russian sport and helped organize the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games.