Ukrainian athletes put on uniforms, fight and die on the frontline. In this situation, the concern for Russians who cannot put on shorts to battle in arenas for the fame and glory of Great Russia seems something offensively indecent.
People create ideas and people destroy them. Sport, and especially the Olympic Games, were supposed to perpetuate the idea of peace, but nothing came of it. Already the ancient Greeks were breaking truces, and the modern world completely ignores canonical obligations.
From the Second World War to the war in Ukraine, our planet has been bathed in blood. It has been happening for so long and so often in different places on Earth that humanity has managed to get used to it. And the new generations know no other world than one where there are always people somewhere killing each other in some war.
“There is no consent for war” – politicians like to rant. So? Well nothing…. Putin doesn’t ask for consent, Bashar al-Assad doesn’t ask, Slogan Milosevic or Radko Mladic didn’t ask…. They don’t care and don’t differentiate – slaughters here, and the Olympics there. Apparently, this is the way it is supposed to be, if it has been like this for a hundred-plus years.
The International Olympic Committee does not even pretend to defend its own ideals. The boycott of the Moscow Games was ordered by politicians of the West. The boycott of Los Angeles was ordered by politicians of communist countries. The IOC organised and bravely conducted both Games despite the war in Afghanistan.
On 8 August 2008, war broke out in South Ossetia involving Russian troops. On 8 August 2008, the Beijing Summer Olympics began. Vladimir Putin was seated in the VIP box and received with honours.
4 days after the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Putin ordered a “special military operation” in Ukraine. As the “operation” billowed into a genocide and the Russian army’s actions were reaching the standard of war crimes, the Paralympic Games were blissfully going on in Beijing.
The scale of the barbarity of this war horrified everyone. The world of sports had to react decisively this time. But a firm reaction is a classic oxymoron in this environment. Sport can’t do that, because it doesn’t want to and avoids tough reactions like the plague.
Don’t piss off Putin
Which is not to say that athletes are incapable of empathy and understanding, quite the contrary. A wave of solidarity with the victims of the war has spread widely among athletes of various disciplines and countries. Support is also being expressed by Polish athletes, some openly speaking out about the war.
Kuba Błaszczykowski has donated PLN 250,000 to help Ukraine. Iga Świątek takes every opportunity to publicly recall the war drama. She also did so after her victory at Roland Garros. She is planning a tournament with celebrities to help the devastated country.
It looks worse for the sports officials, however. While the British federation has excluded the Russians and Belarusians from Wimbledon, the ATP and WTA have taken away the rights of other tennis players competing in the event to earn ranking points.
The ITF (International Tennis Federation) has gone further, allowing Russians and Belarusians into Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) Grand Slam tournaments under a neutral flag.
What does this mean? Only that they will continue to make big money, and the ITF will make its money on them. Putin’s aggression changes nothing in their professional and social lives. Why? Well, because “politics and sport should not mix”.
This fable of the bad wolf and Little Red Riding Hood is the flagship argument of various governors deeply concerned about the ideals of both sport and world peace, populating the rich federations, starting with the IOC, that divide and rule the industry.
High representatives of sporting bodies use this argument with exceptional conviction in the moments of danger – not so much political, but rather threats to their business. Politics is not supposed to get in the way of business, and since sport equals business, therefore “there is no consent”.
FIFA and UEFA were mightily frightened not necessarily by Russian aggression, but by the prospects of being cut off from Russian cash. From the start, they have been scheming how to behave so that uncle Putin would not get pissed off at footie he so generously supports.
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By Marek Jóźwik
Translated by jz