Vladimir Putin Gloats over China Invite to Genocide Games, Flaunting Olympics Russia Ban
Russian leader Vladimir Putin effusively accepted an invitation to attend the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics from dictator Xi Jinping this week – an invite that served as a reminder that Olympic officials banned Russia as a government, and Putin personally, from attending.
Yahoo Sports noted on Wednesday, following an hours-long video conversation between Putin and Xi, that Putin confirming his presence at the Games would violate International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules had Xi not personally invited him. The IOC banned Russia from competing in the Olympics, and world championship institutions did the same, beginning in 2017 after a Russian athletic team whistleblower revealed that the government had organized a massive conspiracy to give as many as 1,000 athletes performance-enhancing drugs, leading to dozens of global victories now brought into question and potentially disenfranchising honest competitors.
The IOC judgment on the scandal, which many decried at the time for being insufficiently weak to deter similar cheating in the future, banned Russian athletes from flying the flag or using the national anthem and barred Russian politicians from attending Olympic events. The athletes themselves, however, could compete under a white flag and the name “Russian Olympic Committee.” At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Russian government largely ignored the ban and cheered on the Russian athletes as if the IOC had done nothing.
The ongoing ban includes the 2022 Beijing Olympics, already denounced as a disgrace by human rights activists for honoring China, a country currently engaging in genocide. As Yahoo Sports noted, the Court for Arbitration of Sports (CAS), which determined the punishment for the Russian team, “prohibited displays of the Russian flag on uniforms or at ceremonies. It also stipulated that Russian government officials would not be permitted ‘to participate in or attend’ the Olympics.”
The CAS offered a loophole, however, that Xi embraced: “This order does not apply to a government representative who is invited to a specified event by the Head of State or Prime Minister [or equivalent] of the host country.”
The Kremlin first confirmed that Xi had invited Putin to attend the event in mid-November, claiming that Putin still needed to “settle” his schedule before official confirmation that he would accept the invite. Putin allegedly received a second, more ceremonial invite while speaking to Xi directly during a virtual meeting on Wednesday.
“President [sic] Xi underscored President Putin’s visit to China and attendance at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics in over a month’s time as a concrete action to support China’s work as the host,” according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. “The two Presidents will have exchanged visits to Olympic Games held in each other’s countries, and the two countries will hold the Year of Sports Exchange in the next two years.”
Russia hosted the Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi in 2014, the first hosting honor bestowed to the country since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Kremlin published a partial transcript of the Putin-Xi conversation that depicted the two authoritarians as extremely friendly. Putin reportedly told Xi that he was “delighted” to have an opportunity to speak to him and that he was looking forward to being in Beijing.
“I do hope that next February, we will finally be able to meet in person in Beijing. As we agreed, you and I will talk, and then we will participate in the Winter Olympics opening ceremony,” Putin gloated. “Thank you for the invitation to attend this important event.”
“I would like to note that we invariably support each other in every aspect of international sports cooperation, including in condemning any attempts to politicize sports and the Olympic movement,” Putin reportedly added. “I have no doubt that the upcoming Winter Games will be held at the highest level. They know how to do things in China.”
The “politicize sports” remark appeared to be primarily a reference to calls from human rights groups and victims of Chinese regime abuses to boycott the event. China is currently engaging in a genocide of the Uyghur people of East Turkistan, fueled by the establishment of over 1,000 concentration camps where survivors say they have endured extreme torture, gang rape, slavery, and indoctrination into communism. Among China’s other crimes are the mass sterilization of women belonging to ethnic minorities, trafficking in the organs of political prisoners, and bulldozing Christians alive.
No country has accepted the challenge to boycott the Olympics, with most claiming the athletes’ privilege of participating in the event overrides the human rights of China’s victims. The administration of President Joe Biden has attempted to claim that it is engaging in a “diplomatic boycott” by not sending politicians to the event, but China has laughed off the claim, noting the politicians allegedly engaging in the “boycott” weren’t even invited.
The IOC banned the Russian Olympic team from participating using its national flag in 2017 through 2022 in response to the discovery that over 1,000 athletes had illegally used performance-enhancing drugs. Whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov, the former head of Russia’s anti-doping program,” revealed that the Russian government sponsored a program to drug the athletes, revealing a trove of documented evidence that Russian officials used tactics like swapping out athletes’ urine for untainted samples.
“It was Rodchenkov who secretly developed a powerful cocktail of drugs with a very short detection window, that he called ‘The Duchess,’ which was dissolved in alcohol (Chivas whisky for the men, and Vermouth for the women) and then swished in athletes’ mouths and spat out,” the Guardianrelayed in 2018.
“Back in the days of East Germany, they doped their athletes in every sport except sailing, then known as yachting,” Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told CNBC this year. “The Russians went beyond that: they doped sailors and curlers, of all things. … It was so extensive, it was outrageous.”
“This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport,” Thomas Bach, the president of the IOC, said at the time. “The IOC Executive Board, after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes.”
Outraged members of the sports community disagreed that the punishment was “proportional,” as Russian nationals could still compete in the Olympics under the modified “Russian Olympic Committee” name and Moscow has clearly disregarded the IOC trying to sideline it. For example, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova published a video this summer promoting the not-Russian team at the Tokyo Olympics, featuring her pretending to practice boxing before attending her regular press briefing. Over 300 Russian athletes participated in the Tokyo Summer Olympics as part of the not-Russian team.
“Athletes now think that you are better off cheating or getting your nation to establish a doping system because even if it is discovered, the consequences are minimal,” British IOC member Adam Pengilly told the Guardian in 2018. “Or, if you don’t want to cheat, avoid elite sport like the plague.”