Propaganda in Sport – Deceptive Neutrality: Russian Killer Athletes

On December 8, the International Olympic Committee decided to grant Russian and Belarusian athletes participation in the 2024 Olympic Games under the “neutral” status.

Ukraine criticized the IOC’s decision. The Ukrainian Ministry of Youth and Sports described the IOC Executive Committee’s decision as “irresponsible” because it allows Russian and Belarussian athletes to hide behind phoney neutrality.

Yet, the stance taken by the IOC’s leadership highlights the lack of a unified position within the sports community regarding the unequivocal rejection of any attempts to rehabilitate the aggressor country through sports. According to Thomas Bach, the head of the IOC, the decision to admit individual athletes from Russia and Belarus to the 2024 Olympics is justified. He argued his position as follows: “Individual athletes cannot be punished for the actions of their governments.

With this in mind, we at UCMC took it upon ourselves to remind about the damage Russia’s aggression has caused to Ukrainian sports.

361 Ukrainian athletes have died in the war with Russia as of the beginning of October 2023.

More than 3,000 athletes and coaches protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine in the ranks of the Ukraine Armed Forces.

During the invasion, the Russian Federation damaged more than 350 sports facilities.

About 100 objects of sports infrastructure have been completely or partially destroyed. Children’s sporting schools, stadiums and Olympic complexes were all hit by artillery and ballistic missiles.

At the same time, it is said that Russian and Belarusian athletes who did not publicly support the Kremlin’s aggression are allowed to participate under a neutral status. Such considerations guide many international officials and federations of various sports. This position demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of Putin’s regime and self-deception regarding the true nature of Russia.

Sport in Russia is a continuation of the state apparatus. According to statistics, about 85 percent of Russian athletes are members of the army, police or other state structures. For example, at the 2020 Olympics, athletes of the Central Sports Club of the Army made up a third of the Russian national team.

For two decades, the Putin regime has invested tens of billions of dollars in the development of sports in order to promote an attractive image of Russia through the sphere of sports. Therefore, in the conditions of military censorship, which has been established in Russia since 2022, the Kremlin believes that all athletes are obliged to “return the debt” in the ideological dimension. Russian athletes are involved in campaign trips to the occupied territories of Ukraine, and public events in support of the Russian military and President Putin.

The presence of Russian athletes in international competitions is cynical in light of their “colleagues” participating directly in the war. Russia hides exact data on the number of athletes and trainers in the army. However, after mobilization in the fall of 2022, their number is estimated to be in the several thousand.

Therefore, Ukraine’s arguments against Russian and Belarusian athletes competing at the games are fully justified. Athletes with a Russian passport cannot be admitted to international competitions. They are an integral part of Putin’s terrorist regime. “Neutral athletes” is nothing but nonsense in Putin’s Russia. Therefore, the slogan “sport is out of politics” cannot be applied to Russia