© Copyright — 2023 — Athletics Illustrated
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) continues to wrongly accuse governments of double standards regarding Russia’s proposed return to competition.
“It is deplorable to see that some Governments do not want to respect the majority within the Olympic Movement or the autonomy of sport which they are requesting from other countries, and are praising in countless speeches and UN [United Nations] and European Union resolutions,” a statement from the IOC read.
The IOC questioned why some governments had not commented on the participation of athletes whose countries are involved in other wars.
What IOC President Thomas Bach does not fully understand — or is engaged in subterfuge — is that the only declared war by a current government in power is the illegal Russian attack on Ukraine. The 30 other engaged nations are experiencing internal issues, for example, civil war, drug war, ethnic cleansing or terrorist war, perhaps not unlike larger and more organised gang wars. None of the others include a legitimate currently-in-power government’s military attack on a neutral nation.
Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Libya and Mali, for example, are experiencing civil war. Tanzania, Algeria, Uganda, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Cameroon are experiencing terrorist insurgencies. Mexico is experiencing a drug war. South Sudan is experiencing ethnic cleansing. In short, none of the other conflicts are declared as official war. They are highly complex and nigh impossible to solve.
So, while Mr. Bach and the IOC continue to attack governments who denounce the return of Russia to competition, he should study global conflicts and better understand them. His strategem is awkward and clumsy.
“It is deplorable that these Governments do not address the question of double standards with which we were confronted in the consultation calls.
“We have not seen a single comment from them about their attitude towards the participation of athletes whose countries are involved in the other 70 wars, armed conflicts and crises in the world.
“It is even more deplorable that they grossly neglect the very clear statement of the two Special Rapporteurs from the UN Human Rights Council, while in other issues they are always highlighting their firm requests for the respect of human rights.”
How far-reaching is the estimate of the so-called 70 wars? The number is inaccurate; however, a few examples to help Mr. Bach and his cronies:
Somalia, for example
Somalia is experiencing a civil war that began in 1991. The conflict started following the collapse of the country’s central government. The conflict involves various factions like a so-called Transitional Federal Government, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), and the Al-Shabaab militant group. There is violence, displacement, and humanitarian crises. The African Union and United Nations have deployed peacekeeping forces to Somalia, but the conflict is significant. The challenge for the country and the international community is complex. The Somalian conflict has created a refugee crisis. Why would the IOC not put as much emotion and concern into helping the displaced Somalians, with its billions of dollars made from advertisers, ticket sales and bid costs?
Ethiopia — top athletes affected
Ethiopia has been experiencing a complex long-term conflict with origins from ethnic tensions. The latest conflict began in the Tigray region in 2020 when the government launched a military operation against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which was the regional ruling party. The conflict has spread and has involved several ethnic groups, with accusations of human rights abuses on both sides. The government has declared a ceasefire and has called for dialogue, however, the situation remains volatile. The conflict continues to have significant humanitarian consequences. Some of the top middle and long-distance athletes are from Ethiopia. For example, multiple world record holder, Letesenbet Gidey, had difficulty training and getting out of her region in 2020.
Uganda has faced terrorist insurgency conflicts by several rebel groups, including the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The ADF, based in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has been active since the 1990s and is responsible for many attacks on civilians — often with deadly consequences. The LRA is a Ugandan rebel group that has been active since the 1980s and is known for its brutality, including abducting children to use in war and as sex slaves. While the conflict is arguably less intense than in some other African nations, it poses a threat to citizens. What has the IOC done for Uganda? Isn’t the abuse of child sex slaves the most inhumane criminal acts — apparently Bach could care less about child sex slaves.
Money is the reason Thomas Bach and the IOC continue to plead for Russia’s inclusion into the Olympic Games
None of the other 30-plus countries can afford to support the IOC. None will be able to bid on the right to host the Olympic Games, save for Mexico. None are deemed safe enough or are domestically organised enough (chaos) to host an Olympic Games. However, Russia hosted the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games and the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The country will likely be interested in hosting further Games.
In fact, President Vladimir Putin has given direction to his government to begin organising a new Goodwill Games with BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. We all know how the original Goodwill Games ended up, being cancelled due to a lack of revenue.
The Goodwill Games were first hosted in Moscow in 1986 during the Michael Gorbachev era of Glasnost. Putin is no Gorbachev and today, there are no metaphorical Berlin Walls to bring down, except for the one that hides Putin during his illegal incursion into Ukraine.
Thomas Bach is a paid volunteer
Thomas Bach’s role as president is considered a volunteer position. It is a big role and seems unfathomable that he not be paid or incur personal expenses. He is in fact, compensated to the tune of €225,000 ($244,000 USD). The price tag seems completely fair. Almost too fair. The question here is, why is he so adamant that Russia and Belarus be included in the Olympic Games?
He apparently has nothing to personally gain by standing up for Russia. A president of a not-for-profit organisation typically remains neutral on such matters. Why is he denouncing most of Europe and the rest of the free world for one country that is waging war on another? This is the same country that has been banned for systematic doping.
Principle 5 of the Olympic Charter reads, “Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Currently, there are Ukrainian athletes taking up positions in the war to defend their country, rather than having the opportunity to train in their sport to represent their respective country.
Vitaly Klitschko, (and his brother Wladimir) a world heavyweight boxing champion has taken up arms. Reigning heavyweight world champion Oleksandr Usyk is fighting for Ukraine.
Sergiy Stakhovsky, a Ukrainian tennis player left his family in Hungary and signed up to the territorial army, saying, “I pretty much hope that I will not have to use the gun, but if I have to, I have to.”
Biathlete and skier Dmytro Mazurchuk has taken up arms, as has Dmytro Pidruchny, who competed in the 2014 and 2018 Winter Olympics.
Ballet dancer Lesya Vorotnyk, at Kyiv’s National Opera, was pictured in the media with a Kalashnikov and dressed in military fatigues while dancer, Oleksiy Potiomkin, has also joined the fight in Kyiv.
These people among others are not training in sport or the arts, they are defending their country. This is in direct conflict with Principle 5.
The statement continues to confute itself
“The Russian side wants the IOC to ignore the war,” the IOC said.
Of course, they do as well as the rest of the world including NATO, which Sweden recently joined much to the chagrin, amid threats from Russia. Finland is well on its way.
“The Ukrainian side wants the IOC to totally isolate anyone with a Russian and Belarusian passport.”
Conflating a sanction for human rights and the ability to train freely is part of the IOC’s attempt at subterfuge.
“Both positions are diametrically opposed to the IOC’s mission and the Olympic Charter.”
Of course, it is called war for a reason. They are in conflict with each other. Not only does Russia want the IOC to ignore the war, but so does the IOC. The IOC is in agreement with Russia; not neutral.
“But extremely complex political problems do not have easy solutions.
“Only populists pretend to have simplistic solutions for the most complex problems in the world.
“The IOC’s position is clear.
“We condemned the war from the first day.
“We imposed unprecedented sanctions on the Russian and Belarusian Governments.
“As a global organisation, the IOC has to manage a complex reality.
“The world is not black or white.
“We are confronted with a cacophony of views and competing interests that are trying to pull us in different directions.”
Well, IOC (and Bach) if confused, perhaps stay out of the war and certainly stop supporting either side.