Will the IOC's Russia ban change the Olympics?
The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Russian athletes who prove that they are clean will be allowed to compete, but without a flag or anthem. Not all journalists agree with the IOC's punishment for the state-organised doping of Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics. For others, however, it provides the occasion for rethinking the Olympics.
Innocent athletes are being punished
Dnevnik is against harsh punishment for Russia's athletes:
“Here a reversal of the burden of proof is being applied. Russian athletes must prove to the IOC anti-doping commission that they are not taking any banned substances; only then will they receive a special invitation. And the whole thing becomes even more controversial because these athletes can only compete under a neutral flag - the Olympic flag, with no national emblems or symbols. ... Innocent athletes are being punished, as if the fact that you live and train in Russia automatically means you doped. Roughly 99 percent of the Russian winter athletes are allegedly clean. Many of them doubt that the Americans would be punished in such a drastic manner if they were in the Russians' shoes.”
Bring the Olympics back to their roots!
Letting the athletes compete under a neutral flag is a welcome stroke of inspiration, The Guardian writes in praise:
“[The IOC] should go further: it should now treat all athletes that way. It should end the rampant chauvinism - introduced by Hitler in 1936 - and invite athletes to participate as citizens of the world. The writer Bernard Levin even proposed they should compete naked, as in ancient Greece, to rid the games of nationalist emblems. The relentless razzmatazz of teams, uniforms, flags, anthems and hysterical commentators has turned the Olympics into a parody of Strictly Come Dancing.”
Sport without doping remains a pious wish
Russia's doping practices are scandalous but the IOC's decision doesn't deserve applause, Mladá fronta dnes writes:
“The scale of the doping scandal harks back to the worst times of the Cold War era. ... To times when the health of the athletes was just a minor detail in the battle between the enemy giants. ... Russia is getting off lightly with the compromise in Lausanne. The athletes are still allowed to call themselves 'Olympic athletes from Russia', which doesn't sound completely neutral. On the other hand it will be painful for those who must now go to the starting line without a flag and without an official country designation. ... But anyone who believes that sport will be clean and fair after the ruling from Lausanne believes in fairy tales.”
This time the big players haven't been spared
The IOC has sent a strong message with its decision, De Telegraaf comments approvingly:
“On the one hand the rights of the individual athletes have been respected, on the other harsh punishment has been meted out to those who were in charge. That's the way it should be, but it's not how things usually turn out in the political game in which more often the little players are sacrificed while the big offenders go unpunished. ... The IOC has made it clear with these sanctions that the credibility of sport takes precedent over everything else. Including world politics.”
Moscow's sports policy is a nightmare
The IOC's decision is absolutely spot on, Dagens Nyheter writes, speculating on whether it will influence other sporting events:
“This summer Russia will host the Fifa World Cup, and now there's no way Fifa can keep its head buried in the sand. One of the people mainly responsible for Russia's absence from the Olympics in Pyeongchang is Vitaly Mutko. Putin's former sports minister is thought to have masterminded the state doping programme before and during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. What is he doing now? He's in charge of organising the Fifa World Cup. Yet more proof that the whole affair is far dirtier than anything Hollywood could dream up. ... That's the reality, and it's a nightmare.”
Russian fans should wave the flag
Following the IOC's decision authorities in Russia are considering boycotting the Winter Games entirely in protest. The state-run news agency Ria Novosti believes this would be a bad move:
“We have good chances of coming away from Pyeongchang with dozens of medals. These chances shouldn't be left to our competitors. ... Our fans have demonstrated on several occasions how they can sing the national anthem even when for some reason or other it wasn't played in the stadium. We should travel to Pyeongchang with the athletes and sing the anthem ourselves. Wave our flags from the stands. This the IOC cannot ban. The games in Korea could be a triumph for Russia. At difficult times, we become even stronger.”