The Russians are coming!
Remember that old movie? Probably not, as you are young and I am not. It was funny though, and played on our inability to see people as people instead of lumping them into one collective boogie man.
This week the news is that the Russians are not coming. To the Olympics, that is.
The Russians are all over the news lately — everyones’ favourite go to fall guy for all sorts of things.
They are accused of meddling in the United States presidential election last year, which although not quite proven yet, certainly seems to be a distinct possibility.
Russia is hosting the World Cup next summer, the world’s biggest sporting event. And even though the North American audience may be down a little seeing as neither the Canadian nor American teams qualified, the world wide audience will be huge.
It’s another chance for good ol’ Vlad Putin to showcase Mother Russia, after hosting the Olympics in 2014. Russian athletes had great success at those games, bringing much glory to the motherland. But now it seems that glory might be tainted.
The Olympics might just be a dirty word in Russia these days, as the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday it is banning the Russian Olympic team from the Games in February in Pyongchang, Korea, due to doping scandals.
In other words, Russian athletes won’t be Putin on any medals in Korea to the sound of their anthem.
If proven clean, Russian athletes can compete under an international flag, but that’s not going to bring glory to the homeland. No Russian anthem will be played, no medal will officially belong to Russia.
Up to now there are 26 Russian athletes who have been sanctioned by the IOC for doping at the 2014 Games. The IOC calls it a systematic conspiracy, involving not just the athletes but anti-drug regulators and government officials to falsify doping results.
The Russian response is a popular one these days — fake news! Yup, the Russians claim the IOC is making it up, fabricating evidence to make Russia look bad.
But no matter how much they argue, they will be doing it instead of skating, luging, skiing, curling, playing hockey and more. Now of course your first reaction might be, Huzzah! more medals for us. And this is indeed true. The Winter Olympics are the Games where Canada does well and Russia is a power in hockey and figure skating especially, as well as cross country skiing, speed skating and more.
Without the Russian team, some medal positions become much more open. And, if the athletes were doping, it isn’t fair that those medals go should go to them. But pity the poor Russian athlete who has played fairly and dedicated his or her life for a shot at the Olympics. It’s a big deal, and for those athletes, a pretty raw one.
Even for those who attend the Games, competing under an international flag,which Putin has said he will allow, will there be the same endorsement opportunities back home? The same opportunity to be rewarded for bringing honour to Russia? It doesn’t seem likely.
It will definitely give the Games a different feel, without the powerhouse Russian team. And dare I say it, it takes a little tarnish off the gold, silver and bronze.
I remember 1980, when the Americans led a boycott of the Soviet Olympics in protest over the invasion of Afghanistan. (Doesn’t that seem like a quaint notion now, by the way?) Then the Soviets responded by boycotting the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. To me, and to many others, those Games were lessened because the best of the best were not all there.
Will that be a cloud hanging over the Pyongchang Games?
Perhaps a better question is, will that be the only cloud hanging over Pyongchang? Because lurking just to the north is another dark cloud who goes by the name of Kim Jung Un. Just what has he got planned for the Games?