With Olympic Ban on Belarus President, West Initiates New Era of Sport Politicization (Gazerta, Russia)
Has the Western world made a mistake imposing an Olympic ban on Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko? This editorial from Russia’s Gazeta is a dual warning, first to the West, which for the first time is denying a head of state the right to attend the Olympics for political reasons, and to Russian leaders, who are quickly putting themselves in the same category as Lukashenko by ‘continuing to assault civil liberties within their own borders.’
The Gazeta editorial says in part:
Considering that Olympic competition was designed precisely so that sports would ensure a distraction from political differences, an exception could have been made for Lukashenko, permitting him to travel to London. Especially since Lukashenko is the lawfully elected – and IOC recognized – head of the Belarus National Olympic Committee. As such, E.U. sanctions do not apply.
It turns out that the political impact is felt by the entire Belarus Olympic delegation, which has been automatically rendered semi-outcast. Why, the U.S. even permits Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend U.N. General Assembly sessions because it’s a global forum, and not just a visit by a politician who from the point of view of Washington is considered “untouchable.”
This sets a precedent, not only for the history of the Olympics, but for the West’s relations with the dictatorial regimes of the post-Soviet space. Clearly, it is much easier to introduce and implement sanctions against countries bereft of oil or natural gas and on those that play little or no significant role in global affairs. In that sense, Belarus and Lukashenko are much more convenient targets than, say, Russia and its leaders. Nevertheless, the “Magnitsky Act” will now certainly be passed in the U.S.
This is the first clear signal since the collapse of the Soviet Union that the West is no longer hoping for the democratization of Russia and other former Soviet republics.
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