The self-righteous behavior of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been nothing less than revolting.
Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been excluded from international competitions. However, the IOC has now recommended to the International Sports Federations (IFs) that they be allowed to return. It would be conditioned on their promise to remain “neutral” or participate on an individual basis.
Sports can open the door to peace in ways that do not exclude or divide, said IOC President Thomas Bach. But Bach’s suggestion is a specious argument. He turns a blind eye to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its numerous war crimes.
It is also an inexcusable rhetoric in that it assumes the uncomplaining acquiescence of Ukrainian athletes.
End the IOC’s Deviant Approach
Already, German and French federations have canceled international fencing competitions in protest after the International Fencing Federation allowed the return of Russian fencing teams to international competition. The IOC’s deviant approach is causing serious confusion. The recommendation to allow Russian participation must be withdrawn immediately.
What is of the utmost importance in discussing the treatment of the Russian team is not their “rights.” Rather, we reiterate that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine should be the only precondition for their participation.
Once met, it would pave the way for the return of Russian teams to international competition.
IOC’s Plan Will Bring No Peace
The slogan “opening the door to peace” is nothing but an expression of Bach’s own hubris. Although the recent IOC recommendation was an attempt to help Russia out, it drew a decidedly cool response from Moscow.
The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) was not grateful. Instead, it flatly stated that any conditions placed on the participation of Russian athletes are totally unacceptable. Conditions represent discrimination by nationality, the ROC said.
There has been absolutely no evidence that the Russians have developed any sense of guilt for their crime of invading their neighbor. Therefore, the only proper course of action is to continue to exclude them from international competition.
Making Japan’s Voice One for Good
Japan also bears some responsibility for the current chaotic situation.
Yasuhiro Yamashita, president of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), and Morinari Watanabe, president of the International Gymnastics Federation, have expressed support for the IOC’s current policy. Their lack of a sense of crisis over Russia’s war of aggression is appalling, especially since they are both members of the IOC.
We urge them to change their minds. If they cannot do so, we would hope that they would say nothing, lest people come to question the integrity of Japan’s sporting community as a whole.
Opinion within the IFs remains divided regarding the exclusion of the Russian athletes from competition. Although it is hard to predict which way the wind will blow, we remain hopeful.
According to a support group working to improve the rights of athletes, more than 300 current and former fencers have signed a letter calling for the “continued exclusion” of Russian participants from international competition. Their ranks include seven Japanese fencers, including Misaki Emura, ranked number one in the world in the women’s sabre category.
It is heartening to know that there are athletes with a conscience in Japanese sports.
(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun