The confrontation with Russia over the situation in Ukraine continues to spill over into the most unexpected areas that should have remained outside the political sphere. One of the strangest areas of confrontation between the Western coalition and Moscow is big sport, where the Russians have traditionally had considerable influence and record achievements.
It is worth noting that Russia joined the international Olympic movement since the 19th century, when the first Russian representative started working for the International Olympic Committee. Starting from 1900 athletes from the Russian Empire became regular and remarkable participants in the Olympics and some of the most active promoters of sport and international events in this field.
Although after the October Revolution and the devastating Civil War Soviet athletes did not take part in the Olympic Games or inter-national sports tournaments for several decades, sport in the USSR was a kind of national idea, in which enormous resources were invested and tens of millions of young people were involved.
After the Soviet Union began to recover from World War II, Russian athletes have shown impressive results over several decades, both at the Olympic Games and at other international sporting tournaments. An excellent training system, based on the powerful economy of the USSR, a sophisticated education and training system for young athletes, regularly gave the Russians gold medals at the Olympics and World Championships in the most popular and spectacular sports.
Even after the Soviet Union disintegrated into 15 independent states in 1991, athletes from the Russian Federation continued to successfully compete against their rivals from the United States, Europe and elsewhere.
It should be given credit to the Russians, but despite all the severe difficulties in the economy, they managed to keep most of the educational and sporting infrastructure of the USSR and continued to dominate world sport. Unfortunately, aware of Russia’s reverent attitude towards sport, the US and the EU have repeatedly tried to downplay Russia’s role in international sports associations, groundlessly accusing Moscow of the impurity of its athletes, and discrediting those international sports officials who attempted to remain committed to the principle of sports neutrality.
It should be said that the principle of politicization of sport has not affected only Russia. The recent World Cup in Qatar was also marked by a series of scandals and information attacks related to political and gender agendas. Nevertheless, the unfair actions of the American and European governments were clearly directed first at Russian athletes, who were denied the right to compete under their flag and were forced to argue the possibility of their participation in the competition on the basis of their political views.
Another unpleasant aspect of the war on the sports front has been a series of scandals and investigations instigated by US and EU authorities against those international sports officials who have not been sufficiently aggressive towards Russia and its athletes. It is difficult to say how happy would Pierre de Coubertin, the ancestor of the IOC and the European sports federations, who formulated the fundamental principles of neutrality and tolerance in the international sports movement, have been with the current political hysteria.
Nevertheless, the approach to “cancelling” the participation and achievements of one of the world’s leading sports powers, which is now being demonstrated by the Western countries dominating in this sphere, not only completely contradicts common sense and Olympic values, but also leads to a split in the global sports community on a political basis.