Putin makes sports vow despite ‘aggressive’ sanctions
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country will remain a “hospitable” venue for international sporting competitions, despite the current sanctions levied on Russian athletes by a wide range of federations.
In a written greeting shared with participants of the forum ‘Russia – A Sporting Power’ on Thursday, Putin said the nation’s athletes had unfairly fallen victim to politics – a situation which contradicts the fundamental principles of the Olympic movement.
“The sanctions aggression unleashed against our country and our citizens has affected many areas, including elite sport,” said Putin in a message to attendees in Kemerovo, as reported by TASS.
“Russian athletes, in fact, are deprived of the opportunity to represent their country, and Russia’s voice in international organizations is deliberately ignored.
“This situation contradicts the very values of sport, the main ones of which are mutual respect and the principle of ‘sport is outside politics.’”
Putin indicated that Russia would not reciprocate the sanctions by closing itself off from the sporting world, nor would it ban foreign athletes from events organized within the country.
Instead, Russia will always be “a cordial, hospitable country where open competitions are held at a high organizational level for representatives of different states and honor the ideals of Olympism,” pledged the president.
Russian and Belarusian athletes have found themselves sidelined from international competitions in a diverse range of sports since Moscow began its military operation in Ukraine back in February.
Many sports federations took their lead from a recommendation issued on February 28 by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
IOC president Thomas Bach has since claimed that the bans partly serve to protect Russian and Belarusian athletes from supposed hostility they would face outside their respective countries.
Russian officials and prominent athletes such as Olympic high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene have called the IOC’s stance discriminatory and hypocritical, while it has been noted that athletes from other countries whose governments carried out military campaigns down the years have not been similarly sanctioned.
In the absence of participation at major international tournaments, Russian sport has set about organizing alternative domestic competitions, including the ongoing ‘Spartakiad’ games which will take place across dozens of sports and involve thousands of athletes.
Also on Thursday at the ‘Russia – A Sporting Power’ forum, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin said that world sport was effectively committing “suicide” by banning Russian athletes and stripping the country of the right to hold major tournaments.
Matytsin said Russia had a proven track of successfully holding major events such as the 2018 FIFA World Cup, arguing that “reliable partners such as Russia can be counted on the fingers of one hand.”