Sports organizations changing tune on Russian bans – Olympic official
Positive steps are being taken for Russian athletes to return from their international exile across a host of sports, according to Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) president Stanislav Pozdnyakov.
Russian athletes have found themselves barred from major global tournaments following a recommendation by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at the end of February because of the conflict in Ukraine.
Seven months on, Russian Olympic official Pozdnyakov said he had detected a change among the IOC and numerous sporting federations.
“Despite the magnitude of the unjustified sanctions imposed on Russian athletes, as well as the phase of extreme tension in international relations that we all see, there are changes in the rhetoric and approaches to this issue on the part of the IOC and the majority of foreign national Olympic committees and sports organizations,” Pozdnyakov said at the forum ‘Russia – A Sporting Power’ in the Kemerovo region on Thursday.
“Yes, the anti-Russian element in the actions of a number of countries, primarily European ones, is still great. Any excuse, any situation is used to escalate the negative situation around the topic of the return of Russian sports to the international arena.
“However, along with this, new aspects have appeared that give us reason to expect that the suspension from international competitions will be lifted. At this point, we must be absolutely ready to return to the international arena in a competitive way, with a high level of results,” Pozdnyakov added.
The ROC president expressed his hopes that Russian athletes would return in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics, despite claims from IOC dignitary Craig Reedie back in July that they could be set to miss out.
“I can say that many IOC members are now set on the return of Russian athletes to the international arena,” said Pozdnyakov.
“On the sidelines of events within the framework of the Association of National Olympic Committees, we constantly discuss this issue with colleagues, the situation is significantly different from what it was a few months ago. For the better.”
However, Pozdnyakov acknowledged that any return for Russian athletes to the global arena would be complicated by broader matters such as the financial and travel restrictions imposed on Russia by “unfriendly countries.”
“At the moment, no one knows the conditions under which the admission of Russians to the [Olympic] Games can be offered. It depends on the IOC, which has imposed restrictions, and on the Organizing Committee of the Games,” said Pozdnyakov.
The ROC chief noted a “second scenario” in which Russians would be forced to miss the Paris 2024 Olympics – in which case Russia would continue to focus on domestic events while cultivating sporting ties within organizations such as the BRICS and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) groups of nations, at the same time maintaining “fully-fledged” cooperation with the IOC.
Beyond the Paris 2024 Games, Pozdnyakov added that Russia would be targeting a top-three finish in the medals table for the Los Angeles Summer Olympics in 2028.
Earlier this month, US Olympic official Susanne Lyons said the IOC was sounding out members over a potential “pathway” for the return of Russian athletes to international competitions.
IOC president Thomas Bach has attempted to defend the bans on Russian and Belarusian athletes by arguing that it partly serves to protect them from supposed hostility they would face outside their home country.
That position has been questioned by the likes of Russian Olympic high jump champion Mariya Lasitskene and numerous others, who describe the bans as discriminatory and contrary to the principle of sport remaining outside of politics.
It has also been noted that athletes from other countries whose governments have launched foreign military campaigns down the years have not been subjected to similar sanctions.