Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) One of the inseparable features of modern war conflicts is that they affect the entire society, and the civilian victims often significantly outweigh the military ones. Such conflicts affect virtually all areas of human life. This is also the case with the ongoing war in Ukraine. Many aspects of this war are therefore forgotten. Unfortunately, little is said, for example, about how the conflict affects Ukrainian sports. Among the war, victims are many Ukrainian athletes.
Russian athletes do not deserve sympathy
I want to mention the case of the young promising Ukrainian decathlete Volodymyr Androshchuk. He was killed while defending his country last January. Another athlete with the same destiny was a promising figure skater Dmitry Sharpar. Before the war, he participated in the Youth Olympic Games and longed to be at a real Olympics. His dream will not come true because he was killed near Bachmut on January 23rd.
Of course, these were by no means the first cases of Ukrainian sportsmen slaughtered while defending their country. Young Ukrainians from the sports world have been dying since the outbreak of the war. One of the first victims was 19-year-old biathlete Yevhen Malysev, a junior national team member. He could fight for medals at the junior championship in Soldier Hollow in the USA. He instead fought in another discipline- warcraft. He decided to strengthen the army and protect his homeland. A few days after the start of the war, he fell in battle. Another victim of the war was Dmytro Pidruchny, the 2019 world champion in the pursuit race, who died while defending Kyiv.
Among the Ukrainian athletes who gave their lives for their country was the young footballer Vitaliy Sapylo. He was on his way to becoming a professional player. This incredibly talented member of the Karpaty Lviv academy team will no longer have the opportunity to develop his talent further. At the tender age of 21, he was conscripted into the army and ultimately died at the beginning of the war while defending the Ukrainian metropolis.
Throughout the war in Ukraine, Russia is responsible for killing at least 300 athletes. They perished either in defense of their country or were killed or injured in attacks on innocent civilians. 25-year-old footballer Dmytro Martynenko is among those killed in attacks on civilians. He played as a midfielder for the FC Hostomel team and died when he hid with his mother in a house that became the target of a Russian bombing.
I don’t think I need to explain further why I don’t regret Russian athletes not being able to compete in international competitions. Simply because it seems like everyone forgot about Ukrainian ones. They had to learn to fight instead of training, and now they are defending their country with weapons in their hand, while many of them are no longer alive today.
As a result of Russian aggression, Ukraine has lost many of its promising athletes. Several hundred dead is certainly not a negligible number. So how fair is it for athletes from the aggressor country to happily compete while Ukrainian athletes are dying? Russian behavior should not go without consequences, even in sports. I see no reason why Russian or Belarusian athletes should participate in sporting events or the Olympics.
The shameful stance of the MOV
Nothing should change. It was the correct reaction to Russian aggression to prevent Russian athletes from participating in several major international sporting events. Until the Russian aggression ends, the International Olympic Committee must not consider any Russian athletes’ participation in the Olympics. The current stance of MOV is a massive disappointment. MOV would still like to see representatives of Russia and Belarus in the Olympics, even if only as neutral athletes. The representatives of these two countries could participate in competitions organized by the Asian Olympic Committee. These include races counted towards Olympic qualification and the Olympics themselves.
Russia (or the Soviet Union) has always used its own sporting successes for propaganda and tried to prove its greatness through sports. Therefore, the entire discussion about involving politics in sports at the Olympics in France in 2024 seems extremely foolish and shallow. Russia is killing thousands of Ukrainians daily while we argue whether Russia can have its representatives at the Olympics. Of course, not! The Olympics should unite nations and show how we can compete honorably. However, Russia has never taken fair competition too seriously, as evidenced by countless doping scandals. And it finally trampled the essence of the Olympic idea when attacking Ukraine, so there is nothing to think about.
Suppose the worst came true and Russian athletes were to participate in the Olympics. In that case, we should follow the example of Latvia and Poland, which have already indicated that they will boycott the Olympics under these circumstances. Why? Because any participation of Russians in the Olympic Games means legitimizing their war crimes.