Top Russian Olympics chief addresses skipping future Games
Alexander Zhukov says it would be ‘extremely sad’ if Russia was forced out of upcoming Olympic Games
Future Olympic Games might well take place without the involvement of Russian athletes, says Honorary President of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov.
Various Russian sports have been severely impacted on the international scene by the array of sanctions imposed on of the country’s sporting infrastructure in the wake of military campaign in Ukraine which began in late February; penalties which were layered upon the restrictions already placed upon Russia’s Olympic athletes as punishment by the World Anti-Doping Agency after they accused Russia of engaging in a prolonged campaign of state-sponsored doping from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
Russian athletes, though, competed at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing and the Tokyo Games under the neutral Team ROC banner – meaning that Russia did have Olympic representation, but the national flag and anthem was banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Team ROC performed admirably at the recent Winter Olympics, finishing second in the overall medals haul behind Norway. Meanwhile, they also scored the fifth highest total of gold medals at the delayed Tokyo Olympics.
But according to Zhukov, Russian athletes will be invited back onto the international scene before long.
“Our athletes will sooner or later return to international competitions, there is no doubt. I am sure that many members of the IOC sincerely would like our athletes to return. And in general, the Olympic movement without Russia is inferior,” said Zhukov to Match TV.
“We remember the Los Angeles Olympics [in 1984], when our athletes did not participate, you can imagine it, but, of course, it is extremely sad,” Zhukov, who is also Vice Speaker of the State Duma.
Zhukov’s comments come soon after Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin expressed a similar opinion, who described the possibility of Russian athletes being excluded from the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris as being “inconceivable.”
“We have said more than once, and this is confirmed by representatives of other countries and federations, that without Russia the development of world sports is impossible,” Matytsin said, also to Match TV.
“And to deprive [Russia of] the right to participate in the Olympic Games, I think it would be a crime and lead to even greater discord within the Olympic movement.”
The comments from both Zhukov and Matytsin come as fears rise that future potential Russian sports stars may opt to represent other sporting federations as a method of bypassing the various sanctions imposed on Russian sport.
This topic has gained prominence recently, particularly after Russian-born Elena Rybakina recently won Wimbledon while representing Kazakhstan – though her decision to switch nationalities dates back several years.
Zhukov, though, sees a bright future for Russia on the international sports scene and enviable medal hauls from upcoming Olympics.
“So far, the change of sports citizenship among Russian athletes has not become widespread,” he said.
“In the future, probably, someone can take such a step, but I think that the political situation will normalize, and there will be more and more of our participants at international competitions.
“Of course, I would like to see Russian athletes at the world’s leading competitions. But don’t give up. We have a big country, magnificent sports traditions. I am sure that we will be able to organize competitions in such a way that our athletes progress and are ready to enter the international arena.”