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Russia in all but the name: the ROC team goes to Tokyo with a siege mentality | Russia Olympic Team




As Russian athletes begin competing in the Tokyo Olympics this week, where they are banned from using the name, flag or anthem of their countries, they enter the race with a siege mentality.

Since 2014, the country’s athletes have been tainted by revelations of the doping scandal in Sochi and subsequent coverage, as well as a host of other conflicts and quarrels that have brought a strain on Moscow’s relations with many Western countries. These are the third Olympics where her athletes and delegates have faced scrutiny for doping allegations.

So a few days before the start of the Games, Russian media revealed that the Olympic Committee had given athletes a cheat sheet on how to avoid media questions about doping, annexation of Crimea, sexual harassment and even knee-jerking athletes in support of the Black Lives Matter.

Documents, first discovered by the newspaper Vedomosti, advised athletes asked about BLM to tell reporters that supporting the movement is a personal choice, but that the Olympics in any case should not become a platform for any kind of protest or gesture.

Regarding questions about sexual harassment, the suggested answer was: I have never encountered it in my career, but I know this problem exists in many countries.

And as for questions about doping and World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) sanctions, they were advised to say they have nothing to say on the subject.

Officials said the guide existed to protect athletes from provocations by activists and the international media who could strike a blow at one of the world’s most controversial sports teams. The information spreads very quickly and any careless response that specially trained people can attract with expertise can affect the athlete extremely negatively, the document reads. A spokesman for the Russian Olympic Committee said the organization had tried to minimize the risks to our team members and delegation.

But it also points to the many enemies Russia sees in international sport, including activists and the media, foreign countries, anti-doping regulators and the International Olympic Committee.

Russia seems caught between its desire to fight doping allegations and sanctions against its Olympic team and the hope that if its athletes go and stick to the sport, the Russian flag could soon be back in the race. Senior officials have been cautious in their criticism of Wada and the IOC, limiting themselves by saying their main concern is supporting athletes.

The issue of sport politicization is unfortunately still important and has not been eliminated from the agenda, Russian President Vladimir Putin said late last month in some of his only comments on the upcoming Olympics. The rights and interests of our athletes must be protected from any arbitrariness.

Pro-government media commentators have been more aggressive in attacking the doping ban, which they have portrayed as an extension of geopolitics. Everything is politicized in this world, complained Tina Kandelaki, a Russian television presenter and PR specialist, who also noted the rigged Eurovision vote and controversial Euro 2020 refereeing decisions in an emotional Instagram post by called on the Russians to support the Olympic team.

Together with Timati, a rapper and entrepreneur who had previously appeared on a track called My Best Friend is President Putin, she has called on supporters to post stories on Instagram with the hashtag #wewillROCyou (Russian athletes are officially known as members of the ROC, an acronym for the Russian Olympic Committee).

All these humiliations from Wada, these constant bans and restrictions, they will simply activate [us], wrote Kandelaki. So far, the hashtag has just over 1,700 posts on Instagram.

But otherwise, it has been a silent period for the Olympic Games in Russia, where the latest sports coverage has been dominated by Euro 2020 and the dismissal of Stanislav Cherchesov after the Russian team was knocked out in the group stage.

Olympic building coverage has focused mainly on the boundaries of how Russia will continue to be punished for doping violations.

Russian gold medal winners will stand on the podium and listen to Piano Concerto No. 1 by composer Pyotr Chaikovsky instead of the national anthem. The flag is banned but their uniforms will display the national colors white, blue and red. And the synchronized swimming team complained that the swimsuit model was rejected because it carried a description of a bear.

[The rules] should be implemented, said Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, when asked about the incident earlier this month. Then, he replied: Let’s look at this issue from another angle: The IOC has officially recognized the bear as a symbol of Russia.

The ROC team, as Russia will be called, is still expected to come third in the medal count. And when it comes to all other issues, athletes are told that the easiest way to end a conversation is simple: No comment.




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