Russian President Vladimir Putin will not boycott next year’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
Putin on Wednesday said his government would allow Russians to compete as neutral athletes at the upcoming Games in South Korea.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has banned the Russian team as punishment for doping violations at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
However, the committee plans to invite individual Russians to compete under the Olympic flag.
“Without any doubt we will not declare any kind of blockade,” Putin said in televised remarks after launching his re-election campaign at an automobile factory. “We will not block our Olympians from taking part, if any of them wish to take part as individuals.”
“They have been preparing for these competitions for their whole careers, and for them it’s very important,” he added.
A Russian boycott would have been the biggest at any Olympics since the Soviet Union and its allies missed the 1984 Los Angeles Games in response to the US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics four years earlier.
Russia still does not accept accusations that it ran a state-backed doping system at the Sochi Olympics, Putin said, calling the IOC ruling “politically motivated” and unfair “collective punishment.”
An IOC commission chaired by former Swiss president Samuel Schmid on Tuesday ruled that there was a doping system, but said it found no evidence that “the highest state authority” knew.
However, of Yuri Nagornykh, the Russian deputy minister of sport at the time of the Sochi Games, it said: “It is impossible to conclude that he was not aware” of doping cover-ups.
Russian athletes, coaches and politicians have lined up to condemn the IOC ruling, but most have said it is better to accept it and compete.
Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault, came out against a boycott.
“I would like to tell all Russian athletes preparing for the Olympics in Pyeongchang not to get disappointed in any case and definitely not to do anything stupid like a boycott,” Isinbayeva told state TV. “It’s clearly not worth it.”
She said the committee’s choice of “Olympic Athletes from Russia” as the official designation, instead of a more neutral tag, decided the issue for her.
IOC president Thomas Bach later on Wednesday said that allowing the country’s name to remain “was not a compromise, it was just reflecting reality” that it would be Russian athletes taking part.
Bach said he had not spoken with Putin since the sanctions were announced, and suggested Russian athletes and sports leaders would meet to discuss competing in Pyeongchang.
They could “represent a new generation of clean Russian athletes in the Games and build a bridge into a clean future of Russian sport, for which they can then become ambassadors,” Bach said.
Some Russian sports officials have been criticized for not doing enough to prevent the ban, with senior lawmakers and sports figures calling for them to be fired.
Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, said blaming officials was not a priority and that “protecting the interests of our athletes” was more important.
Under particular pressure is Russian Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko. He was minister of sport during the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when the IOC ruled drug test samples were tampered with as part of a doping scheme.
Mutko is now in charge of the country’s preparations for next year’s soccer World Cup.
He was barred from the Olympics for life by the IOC on Tuesday.
Also on Wednesday, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said it has registered appeals by 22 Russian athletes against their disqualifications from the 2014 Sochi Olympics for doping.
It said the athletes have requested verdicts before the Pyeongchang Games open on Feb. 9.
The appeals relate to earlier bans against individual athletes, not the ruling on the Russian team.
China wants to unite its 1.4 billion people through soccer, while also using the sport as “a bridge to work with the rest of the world,” Chinese Football Association secretary-general Liu Yi told reporters in an interview published yesterday. Liu spoke about what lies behind the country’s push to become a major soccer power by 2050. Under Chinese President Xi Jinping — who is described by state media as an “avid soccer fan” — the world’s most populous country has grand plans to host and even one day win a World Cup. Liu spoke about “using football to motivate the whole nation.” “Football is
‘JOB NOT DONE’: The outfielder, who hit a homer and stole two bases, said that players ‘have to be good at all aspects of game all the time and not take plays off’ Los Angeles outfielder Mookie Betts put himself in rarefied company with a standout performance in the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in the 116th World Series on Tuesday. Betts sparked the Dodgers’ four-run fifth inning with a walk and two stolen bases, joining Babe Ruth as the only players in World Series history to record such an inning. After walking to lead off the inning, Betts stole second base. After Corey Seager walked, Betts reached third on a double steal, giving the Dodgers runners on second and third with one out. Betts took an aggressive stance off the bag
TENNIS Federer eyes Australia Roger Federer is practicing pain-free after undergoing two knee surgeries this year and said that he expects to return to the circuit at the Australian Open in January. The 39-year-old Swiss reached the semi-finals at Melbourne Park at the start of the year, but missed the rest of the season after undergoing a second arthroscopic procedure on his right knee. “I’m on the right track,” he told German-language magazine Schweizer Illustrierte. “I’m gradually coming back, but I’m going to take my time and don’t want to put any pressure on myself. I will only take part in a
Marcus Rashford once again sank Paris Saint-Germain after netting the decisive goal in a 2-1 Champions League win in the French capital. Rashford, who scored the winning spot-kick when United knocked PSG out two seasons ago, drilled home a low shot three minutes from the end, which won a thrilling Group H contest at a near-empty Parc des Princes. United had taken the lead in the 23rd minute when Bruno Fernandes slotted home from the spot at the second attempt, but Anthony Martial inexplicably headed Neymar’s corner into his own net 10 minutes after the break. The rest of the match was an