It’s that time of the year where elite athletes from all over the globe compete in honour of the Greek god, Zeus. The Olympics is a platform like no other which teaches us traits like determination, discipline and the vigour to dream big. However, a series of unfortunate events have taken place in the build up to Tokyo 2020, and we're here to enlighten you on that.
RUSSIA'S AFFAIR WITH DOPING
At the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia, members of the country's intelligence service and Russian anti-doping experts indulged in a twisted scheme, where they secretly replaced urine samples containing performance enhancing drugs with clean samples. The following evidence was unraveled by a whistleblower by the name of Grigory Rodchenkov, resulting in Russia being banned.
Under the ban, Russia’s flag, name and anthem would not be allowed at the Tokyo Games and the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. However, Russian athletes not implicated in doping are expected to be allowed to compete in the Olympics and other world championships, but only under a neutral flag. Additionally, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has also disallowed Russian sports and government officials from the Games and prohibited the country from hosting international events.
This has resulted in a series of scattered opinions for and against the ban on Russia.
1. For the ban
Edwin Moses, the chairman of the United States Anti-doping Agency and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, said that too many anti-doping leaders and the International Olympic Committee have prioritised Russian sentiments over those of certifiably clean athletes from elsewhere. Those athletes, he said, may have lost medals and money to Russians who cheated. Hence, a blanket ban should be incorporated.
Also, Russia still can qualify and participate in football's 2022 World Cup, provided team members are cleared of doping, though its team would have to wear a neutral uniform.
2. Against the Ban
The former Russian prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, encouraged an appeal saying that the anti-doping agency’s decision appeared to him to be a continuation of anti-Russian hysteria.
One Russian talk show described the revelations as an attempt by Russia’s rivals to eliminate a potential medal-winning opponent, while a documentary tried to lay the blame on the whistle-blower, Grigory Rodchenkov, a former anti-doping official who helped mastermind the scheme from his position as the head of the Moscow laboratory.
TURBULENT TAIWANESE TIMES
Taiwan has been marching under the name of ‘Chinese Taipei’ since the 1984 Olympic Games despite a long political battle for recognition with Mainland China. The controversy regarding the political status of Taiwan which is also known as the 'Taiwan Issue' is a result of the Chinese Civil War and the subsequent split of China into the two present-day self-governing entities of the People's Republic of China.
An online petitions with more than 131,000 signatures has been in circulation, which demands that Taiwan should compete under its own choice of name and flag at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. At the opening ceremony, Taiwan were seen carrying the flag illustrated in the image above.
As per ABC journalist Bang Xiao, the Chinese citizens watching the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony fumed at Tencent after it cut the 'Chinese Taipei' Taiwan's team off and replaced the content with a short standup comedy clip, subsequently adding fuel to fire thereby depicting Chinese prowess.
ATHLETES FIGHT FOR FREE SPEECH
U.S. athlete Gwen Berry was reprimanded by U.S Olympic and Paralympic Committee CEO Sarah Hirshland for violating Rule 50, which prohibits inside-the lines protests at the games, after Berry raised her fist against racial injustice, at the Peru Pan-Am Games. Simply put, Rule 50 is against any form of propaganda or political statements made during the games.
In the last couple of years, athletes across sports have been using their power to make political statements on the field, at the same time, sending out a social message concerning the world at large.
The push for free speech is an artefact of growing athlete activism in recent years in response to racism in European football, the unrelenting police violence against Black people and other minorities in countries like the United States and Chinese human rights violations in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.
The IOC Athletes’ Commission supports Rule 50, saying it believes “the focus at the Olympic Games must remain on athletes’ performances, sport and the international unity and harmony that the Olympic Movement seeks to advance.”
If there was genuine opportunity for athletes to become involved in sport governance and public policy, there would be far less reason for them to demonstrate. Another of the recommendations from the Athletes’ Commission, following a survey and consultation process, was to “increase opportunities for athletes’ expression during the Games.”
The IOC should embrace free speech as a contribution to its highest goals.
CORONAVIRUS A COMPETITOR AT THE OLYMPICS
A. Two South African footballers test positive
The South African Football Association confirmed that two players, who are the first athletes in the Olympic village to to receive positive tests were Thabiso Monyane and Kamohelo Mahlatsi.
A Games official was also the first individual based in the Olympic Village to test positive on Saturday, on the same day that the IOC president Thomas Bach insisted the Games will be safe and secure.
B. Heartbreak for US Athletes
A confirmation was received by Kara Eaker's father that the athlete, a member of the US gymnastics team, tested positive Sunday. Further Katie Lou Samuelson, a member of the US Olympic 3x3 women's basketball team, announced on Instagram that she will not be able to compete in the Games after being diagnosed with Covid-19.
C. Dutch skateboarder misses out
Dutch skateboarder, Candy Jacobs will miss out on her sport’s Olympics debut after testing positive in the Olympic Village. The 31-year-old, who had been due to compete in the women’s street event, said that she was devastated by this unforeseen event.
D. Youthful Aguirre has to wait
OLYMPIC HEADS OF IMMORALITY
A string of issues have hit the shores of the Olympics, tarnishing the image of sport. Those working on behalf of the Olympic Committee have come under mounting scrutiny due to what's been said on topics of concern.
A footage emerged of Kentaro Kobayashi from the 1990's in which he appeared to make jokes about the Holocaust, resulting in the dismissal of the show director of the Olympics opening ceremony.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga described the comments as "outrageous and unacceptable". Organisers have reassessed plans since Kobayashi's removal. In another incident, Olympics Creative Chief Hiroshi Sasaki quit after suggesting that plus-size comedian Naomi Watanabe could appear as an "Olympig".
To add to this fury, the head of the Tokyo Olympics organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, said that women talk too much and that meetings with many female board directors would take a lot of time. Mori later apologised for his comments following calls for his resignation, but said he did not intend on stepping down.
About 440 Games volunteers quit in response to Mori's comments, in which he also said female participants "get competitive" with each other in meetings. Major sponsors came forward to criticise his comments, including Toyota, one of the biggest advocates of the Olympics. A group of female lawmakers wore white in a protest against his remarks, with some men doing the same in solidarity.
The International Committee deemed these comments ''absolutely inappropriate.''. This paints a redundant, no less ugly image for the organisers. However, a positive outcome was achieved with Mori finally stepping down from his position.
Perhaps taking a few extra classes on ethics and morality is what's required of these organisers. It's imperative that we take necessary steps to mitigate these issues and view it in a positive light for the forthcoming Olympic games in Paris. Do comment below and let us know what you think.
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