Let the games begin! Between the 9th and 25th of February 2018, the South Korean city of Pyeongchang (only 90 km from the border with North Korea) will host the Winter Olympics. As if things weren’t exciting enough in the run-up to the games, Russian athletes have been adding their own dash of drama to the mix. Unfortunately, however, all the extra attention isn’t exactly for the right reasons (and it doesn’t cast the world’s biggest winter sporting event in the best light).
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has seen its ban on most Russian athletes participating in the games overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. One IOC member called it: “a desperate and dark day for sport, with cheats and thieves allowed to triumph”.
The ban was originally handed down to Team Russia after evidence of a massive, state-sponsored doping programme came to light, including collusion by the countries’ intelligence services to thwart investigators. In February 2016, two former heads of the Russian anti-doping lab, Vyacheslav Sinev and Nikita Kamaev, died within 10 days of one another. Coming hot on the heels of the Fifa corruption scandal, it’s been a rough couple of years for international sport.
What do our readers think of all this? One reader, Matej, goes so far as to call the Olympics a “sham”. Maybe this kind of cynicism is to be expected when there are doping allegations casting such a shadow over the games? What’s the right way to restore trust in international sports? Should Russian athletes be completely banned from taking part?
To get a reaction, we spoke to Bogdan Wenta, a Member of the European Parliament. Before his career in politics, he was a professional athlete; a national handball player and coach in both Poland and Germany. So, what would he say to Matej’s loss of faith in the Olympics?
That’s not an easy question to answer… Whenever there are national interests involved, sometimes countries use sport to strengthen their image internationally, and to make their people appear stronger. But, if we reduce sport to this then we all lose, as in the case of the Russian doping allegations…
My background is in sport, and sport has given me a lot, and I will always fight to defend sport… but it should be up to the International Olympic Committee to decide, and to act in a way that restores credibility in the Olympics. This is not a trivial question, because people need heroes. The younger generation need examples to follow, and sport can provide this. So, it’s important that the public talk about this, and I think it’s our job to keep up the pressure and help restore the credibility of sport internationally.
Should Russian athletes be banned from the Winter Olympics? Doping allegations and political tensions look set to define the coverage of the games. What does this mean for the famous Olympian values and ideals? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!