The Russian Minister of Sport, Pavel Kolobkov, has told journalists that his ministry will organize and carry out separate games for athletes banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, in South Korea.
Kolobkov said the competition will not seek to obtain a new Olympic Games status because the exclusive rights to conduct the Olympics were owned by the International Olympic Committee.
“Currently we are considering organizing a number of competitions and inviting foreign colleagues. We are also considering setting up a winner’s fund for the games. Athletes have a right to decide not go to the Olympics. We will provide the opportunity for them to earn money at different sporting events,” the RBC news reported, citing the Russian Minster.
Kolobkov also said that those athletes who choose to attend the Olympics and win in Pyeongchang would receive the same awards as those given to winners at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. At that time, Russian gold medalists received financial awards of RUB 4 million, silver medalists - RUB 2.7 million, and bronze medalists - RUB 1.7 million.
The Minister promised that those athletes who will go to Pyeongchang (more than 450 Russian athletes are currently training for the games) will be “very fit” and will put up a good show.
“We realize the amount of pressure our athletes will have to deal with, but they are strong individuals. I am confident that the obstacles will only harden them and they will show their best results,” Kolobkov said.
On December 5th, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) disqualified the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang. In particular, the IOC forbade Russian athletes participating in the Games to display a Russian flag, coat of arms as well as the national anthem. At the same time, the IOC said Russian athletes could participate in the 2018 Olympic Games under a neutral flag.
In addition, there will be a special commission formed that will examine athletes in order to qualify them for participation. Athletes who are cleared by the commission will be competing under the special status of “Olympic athletes from Russia.”
President of the ROC Alexander Zhukov, in his December 8th speech before the State Duma (Parliament) defended athletes who opted for Pyeongchang to participate under a neutral flag against accusations of eroded values. He said it was totally unacceptable to accuse athletes of the lack of patriotism especially given the tough and partisan environment they will have to square at the games.
“We need to support both them and others who decided it was unacceptable for them to participate in the Olympics. For the latter we will probably set up alternative games, give them our support, but we also need to support those who will go. If we do not do it, it will be wrong,” ROC’s President said.
On December 12th, the ROC leadership unanimously supported participation of Russian “clean” athletes in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in South Korea under a neutral flag.