"Russia" continues to make mockery of Olympic ban
TOKYO - Four guys from Russia, wearing Russian colors, climbed onto a podium to receive gold medals and hear a Russian song, right after a couple of viewers said, "Rus-SEE-a, Rus-SEE-a," the eternal Russian Chants, chanted.
However, Russia did not win the men's gymnastics team competition here on Monday. Lower Austria. Not at all. Russia? Never heard of it. Russia is not there.
Or something like that.
The International Olympic Committee has officially banned the country from staying here due to open doping scandals that go back to the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi. The IOC generally has a KGB killer moral compass, but even it couldn't ignore that.
To sum up just a few things: In Sochi, the Russians built a building next to the drug testing laboratory and then cut a hole in the wall. Every night after the lab was closed, workers gave out dirty athlete samples and put clean samples in.
Two predictable things happened: Russia won the most medals. Not a single Russian tested positive. When they finished doping the Olympics, they did the same thing at the Paralympics, which seems particularly pathetic. Russia has of course won the most medals there, more than three times the second best country.
The World Anti-Doping Agency eventually resolved the case, which resulted in the man who orchestrated the plan being Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, fled to the United States, where he went into witness protection (not before being featured in the Netflix document "Icarus"). That was wise. Two of his cohorts have been found dead in Russia, but that was probably just a "coincidence".
In any case, it was so outrageous that even the IOC decided to punish the Russians.
So did it. Somehow.
"Russia" is not here, but there are about 330 Russians. If an athlete has not tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs, they are allowed to come.
(From R) Russia's David Belyavskiy gold medals, Russia's Denis Abliazin, Russia's Artur Dalaloyan and Russia's Nikita Nagornyy celebrate on the podium after winning the final of the men's team gymnastics during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Ariake Gymnastics Center in Tokyo on July 26 have won in 2021. (Photo by Loic VENANCE / AFP) (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP via Getty Images)
You are technically competing for the "Russian Olympic Committee," which the IOC believes will confuse everyone.
Couldn't they at least have gotten creative and called the Russians the “Sochi Hole-in-the-Wall Club” or “Vlad’s Not Here” or “Mike Eurizione Says Hello” or something? Isn't it worth cheating the visually impaired skiers and wheelchair curlers of the world out of a fair competition?
Some of the IOC sanctions seem a little ridiculous. The Russian art swimming team is allowed to set its routine on a punk tune called "With Russia from Love" ... but the IOC cuts out the word "Russia". It's like listening to Kanye on terrestrial radio.
At the award ceremony here, the Russian national anthem was replaced by the “Piano Concerto No. 1” by the Russian composer Tchaikovsky. The flag that was hoisted was not the Russian one, but one with the waves of an Olympic torch ... but in the Russian colors of blue, red and white.
Russian flags are not allowed in any venue (or at the opening or closing ceremony), but they can be hung over the Olympic Village. So there is. Not that it matters. The Russians designed their uniforms to imitate the beloved tricolor.
"If the flag is not allowed, we will be the flag ourselves," said rugby captain Alena Tiron of the Russian state news agency RIA Novostu.
In Russia you won the Olympic gold medal.
"We know which country we stand for," said Tiron.
Everyone does. A country that is adept at embedding spies in the world's highest levels of government doesn't even have to try to be sneaky here.
This is the worst disguise since Clark Kent became Superman. It is the meme of the two spidermans pointing to each other. It's a wonder that Vladimir Putin didn't show up here on horseback, shirtless through downtown Tokyo ... but wearing a fake mustache and calling himself Pladamir Vutin.
The entire IOC plan backfired completely. It certainly didn't stop the Russians from doing so. And it certainly didn't shame Russia where Putin used the ban to stir up nationalist pride.
State media there condemn the punishment with the classic three-pronged tactics of all prisoners / injured parties: a) We are innocent; b) even if we are guilty, what about the other guys; c) the world / media are only out to get us the poor-little-victim-us anyway.
It works anytime, anywhere, from Montana to Moscow. In this case, it arguably made the Russian athletes even greater heroes.
"Russia is an expert in dealing with propaganda," Sarah Owens, professor and expert in Russian propaganda at the University of Maryland, told Yahoo Sports. “This fits with the Russians' constant 'us against the West' narrative, which claims that the athletes were treated unfairly as further evidence of how badly Russia is being treated in the world in general.
“Russia is your team and you tend to support your team even in the face of scandals. This could work to the advantage of the Kremlin to anger the international community and bolster Russian nationalism. That being said, Russians are quite a demanding audience and will likely be a bit cynical of their government. "
The truth is, there wasn't much the IOC could do. Ignoring would mean toleration. However, punishing innocent athletes seems unfair - gymnast Elena Gerasimova, for example, was 9 years old during the Sochi Olympics. It wasn't her fault.
The original sin was to allow Putin to host the Winter Olympics at all. He spent $ 50 billion to host it. Do you think he just wanted to take his chance to win the most medals?
However, bribes pay bills.
So seven years later the IOC is still cleaning up and going through this farce: a bunch of Russians, dressed like Russian flags, climb a podium to listen to a famous Russian composer and receive medals that will bring them back to Russia.
You are definitely not running for Russia. Lower Austria. Not at all.
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