The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). Are there any ways left for Russian athletes to participate in the games? And what exactly does a country lose when it is excluded from the games?
Of course, there are ways. In my opinion, in the IOC’s phrasing there is an obvious desire not to cut ties, but rather to delay making a decision. And the messages about neutral status as an option for participation speak to this.
As for the scale of the loss for the country, in my opinion, the Olympics have long ceased to be something special, exceptional, their popularity among the general public is low. Athletes who might have become champions will not get the chance, and they will suffer from non-participation in the Olympics.
In addition, new sports have been added to the program, making the Olympics even more cumbersome and expensive. It will not give a boost to Russia specifically, but the organizers are clearly trying to increase the popularity of the Olympics and expand the audience. For instance, cricket is wildly popular in India and Pakistan, which combined have a population of almost two billion.What can Russia do in this situation?
Russia today has again chosen tactics similar to those the USSR followed in 1984 when it boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics. But whereas Soviet bureaucrats attributed the decision to risks to the safety of athletes, as well as the rise of terrorism and crime in the US, today the reason is supposedly the desire of the West to humiliate Russia.
In addition, in Russia there is a lot of talk about establishing new games with the BRICS countries. But I am sure that the people who are making such statements on behalf of Russian sport understand perfectly well that there is no other international institution that unites all sports like the IOC. In any case, there is no alternative yet, though the IOC, like the UN, is facing a serious crisis.
The second reason why no one wants these hypothetical [BRICS] games is the TV ratings. You can organize competitions with athletes from India, China, Tajikistan and Myanmar, but no one will watch them. Viewers are much more interested in watching Champions League matches and following the best soccer players in the world.
Such conversations began back in 2019 amid the sanctions for doping
. Even then, some former Soviet sports bosses began to suggest that Vladimir Putin should create “friendship games” for handpicked countries. We have experience: when in 1984 the Soviet Union boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics, our athletes were given a sweet pill called “Friendship-84
.” I worked them. I remember tears of resentment in the eyes of some athletes, of my friends. They came from the GDR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other socialist countries. Many of them would have contended for Olympic gold medals but were forced to compete among themselves at the “Friendship Games.”