With tensions high, Russia aims for Olympic gold in Beijing

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Russia is heading to the Beijing Olympics against a backdrop of international tension, and this is not the first time. A…

Russia is heading to the Beijing Olympics against a backdrop of international tension, and this is not the first time.

A buildup of Russian forces near neighboring Ukraine worries Washington and among the United States’ NATO allies in Europe.

Russia is sending 212 athletes to Beijing – one of the largest delegations – although it is still under doping sanctions that ban its name and flag from being displayed in official Olympic settings. Russian officials are hoping for one of the country’s biggest Winter Olympic medal hauls to date.

Speaking to athletes on Tuesday via video, Russian President Vladimir Putin did not discuss tension with Ukraine, but offered support for China over “the politicization of sport and blatant boycotts” over the United States. States and other countries that do not send diplomatic representatives to Beijing for humane reasons. rights grounds.

Putin, who plans to attend the opening ceremony, also touted the upcoming Olympics as a test of Russian character.

“As you know, in Russia people are not afraid of difficulties,” Putin said. “They just make us stronger, more united and more confident. All of these qualities, I am sure, will be on full display in Beijing.

The Olympics have coincided with tensions in the region before. In 2014, Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in Sochi just as protesters in Ukraine forced pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych out of office. Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula to Ukraine the following month.

When Beijing last hosted the Olympics in 2008, Russian troops were waging a brief war with another former Soviet neighbor, Georgia, over the status of breakaway regions.

UKRAINE WARNS ATHLETES

Olympians have sometimes used the Games in the past to make gestures of peace. In 2008, Russian and Georgian shooters kissed on the podium during a dispute.

This time, however, Ukraine told its athletes it would frown on posing for photos with Russians in Beijing.

“All athletes are informed, they know how to behave in situations like this,” Ukraine’s Youth and Sports Minister Vadym Huttsait, a former Olympic fencing champion, told public broadcaster Suspilne on Monday. “They shouldn’t be standing together if there are Russian athletes standing there with a flag.”

It was widely seen as a reference to Ukrainian high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh posing with Russian rival Mariya Lasitskene after winning bronze and gold respectively at the Tokyo Olympics.

The photo sparked criticism of Mahuchikh in Ukraine and a torrent of abusive comments online, particularly because she and Lasitskene both hold military ranks in their country’s armed forces.

IMPACTS OF DOPING

Technically, it will not be Russia that will participate in the Beijing Olympics, but the ROC.

Russia’s name and flag are once again banned from the Olympics in the continuing fallout from the doping scandals that have dominated the past decade of Russian sport.

The three-letter code ROC stands for Russian Olympic Committee, whose flag will be used – including a stylized Russian tricolor emblem – and the team will wear the national colors. Russia’s critics wanted tougher rules, including a vetting mechanism to ban athletes involved in doping cover-ups, before the Court of Arbitration for Sport watered down the sanctions package.

This will be the third and final Olympics under these restrictions for Russia, which fielded an ROC team at the Tokyo Olympics last year and the “Olympic Athlete from Russia” team at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. , in South Korea.

The 2018 sanctions related to doping and cover-ups when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The current punishment is for yet another cover-up, when the World Anti-Doping Agency discovered that it had received manipulated doping data from the country’s national testing laboratory, which was under the control of Russian law enforcement. The restrictions imposed on Russia expire in December 2022, well before the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. The Russian government denies any state involvement in doping.

MEDAL SHOTS

The Russian team should easily surpass their mark of 17 medals from the 2018 Olympics and could rival Norway and the United States at the top of the medal table.

Russia are the defending champions of two prestigious competitions, men’s hockey and women’s figure skating, and favorites to win them again.

Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old figure skater, set records in her first season since moving up from junior level, and could be the next Russian to win Olympic gold in the women’s showpiece event.

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