Russian Athletes In Favor Of Competing At PyeongChang Games, ROC Says
Russian athletes are "overwhelmingly in favor of competing" at the PyeongChang 2018 Games despite a ban on the national team, the Russian Olympic Committee said on Monday, according to James Ellingworth of the AP. Sofia Velikaya said that the ROC's athletes' commission, which she chairs, has heard from "all the athletes in all sports" on the Olympic program, "with a majority in favor of competing." Velikaya said that "no athletes have told the ROC they would rather boycott." Velikaya added, "At the current moment, everyone's training and everyone's hoping to take part in the Olympics." ROC spokesperson Konstantin Vybornov said that teams from biathlon and snowboard "recorded videos affirming their desire to compete," while the men's hockey team wrote "a collective letter." Some Russian "hardliners" believe it is "shameful for athletes to compete at the Olympics without their national flag." But Velikaya defended the athletes, saying that "everyone watching will know who is from Russia." Velikaya: "The choice of competing at the Olympics is strictly individual. I call on Russian society to treat athletes' decisions with understanding and respect" (AP, 12/11).
UNPRECEDENTED SPLIT: The AFP's Marchand & Lapenkova reported the IOC's decision to ban Russia from the Games "has created an unprecedented split between the country's athletes and politicians." Russian Parliament's deputy speaker, Igor Lebedev, a "sport fanatic" who also sits on the Russian Football Union's exec committee, said that he felt the only solution in response to last Tuesday's IOC ban was a "complete refusal to take part in the Olympic Games." On VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, pro-Kremlin MP Natalia Poklonskaya -- Crimea's former chief prosecutor -- said that Russian athletes should parade only "under the flag of our great country." A "squabble" between Pyotr Tolstoy, deputy speaker of the Russian parliament's lower house, and Yolanda Chen, a former triple jump world-record holder, illustrated the conflict between athletes and politicians. In a "heated exchange" on the Pervy Kanal TV channel, Chen said, "The real traitors are those who haven't lifted a finger to defend our athletes for two years. They shout patriotism but we are the real patriots, not them. It's us who are ready to go to the Games without a flag or anthem, to defend the honor of the nation" (AFP, 12/7).