Olympic compromise: why Russia is not boycotting the Games in Rio

“Win at home, draw away” is a well — known formula, derived great Soviet football coach Valeriy lobanovskyi, in my opinion, could not be accurately reflects the strategy used by the Russian political elite in the field of international elite sport. A priority for the leadership of the country are the major sports forums held on its territory, not only from an organizational but also from a sporting point of view. It is with reference to the home of international sporting events are developed and implemented special management decisions aimed at achieving extraordinary athletic success.

Personnel reserve

Intense coverage of major sports events leads to a significant inflow of audience, which is extremely big proportion of people who usually don’t monitor the sports world. To the untrained fan, reminiscing about archery and track Cycling only every four years, the vicissitudes of wrestling are reduced to the ratio of victories and defeats, the quintessence of which is the unofficial medal standings. The number of medals is a simple and objective measure of the strength athletes, since athletes represent the nation-state, the medals begin to acquire not only sports, but also political brilliance, forcing the political elite to give priority to national teams.

On the eve of the Universiade in Kazan in 2013, many Russian athletes, including 25 Olympic Champions and medalists of Olympic games, Champions and prize-winners of world and European Championships and almost simultaneously felt the need in higher education and received a student status that allowed them to advocate for the student national team. Before Sochi 2014 Russian Olympic team has experienced personnel Grand revolution, not only naturalistov strong athletes in Russia are problematic for sports, but rekruterov almost 70 highly qualified professionals to work with the Russian Olympic teams in 11 of the 15 sports included in the Games programme. In the case of Kazan, in the case of Sochi, the chosen strategy has led to the sports triumph — the national team of Russia in total number of medals won first place.

“The championship name Mutko”

The nearest home to the mega-event — world football championship (world Cup) — for obvious reasons not meant to be a struggle in the overall medal standings, but the attempt to build a solid strategy for the preparation of the national team began in the summer of 2012, when the chief coach was appointed award-winning Italian Fabio Capello. According to Forbes, he became the highest-paid coach of the national team in the world. Capello, appealing to the experience of the teams playing in the finals of the 2014 world Cup in Brazil, where only seven of the 24 teams were fully staffed by natives of his country, has consistently urged the Russian football officials and the public of the need for the naturalization of players for the national team. Italian is also rather dramatically changed their attitude to the limit on foreign players in Russian football — first he called the limit among the three things that it was most surprised, and then, apparently, drawn into the work became tougher limit, justifying its necessity by the interests of the national team.

The way Capello and Russian national team quite quickly dispersed, but the ideas of naturalization and preservation of a limit left. Football officials headed by Vitaly Mutko repeated like a mantra the phrase “the priority is the national team”, inevitably linking it to the upcoming performance at the home world Cup. This change in rules can be made rapidly. Revealing the words of Andre Villas-Boas, a former coach of Zenit, who called the Russian Prime Minister-League “the championship name Mutko” after rules limit on foreign players was dramatically altered a few weeks before the start of the next football season. However, the focus on high sports result of the national team in a separate, albeit very important sports tournament allows officials sluggish to respond to criticism and keep on moving in the selected direction.


Priority given to home sports events, reflected in the reaction of the Russian politicians and officials at the resonant doping scandal on the eve of the Games in Rio. The rhetoric of Vladimir Putin was the need to protect the interests of athletes and improve the work of officials, but not directly set up public opinion against the international sporting organizations. The head of the Russian Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov has repeatedly stated about the inadmissibility of boycotting the Games from Russia and warned against other drastic action. One personally loyal to the President, the politician — the Minister of sport, Vitaly Mutko, also did not do any loud statements. Moderation and caution in a situation when there is a real threat of suspension from the national team’s Games, indicates reluctance to confront powerful international sports organizations in anticipation of the world Cup in Russia.

In my opinion, the decision of the IOC, which allowed Russia to play in Rio under the national flag, and have the same draw, minimally acceptable to the Russian leadership from a political point of view. The absence of the entire Russian team at the Games would have been a blow not only for athletes, but also for the ruling elite, as would have made Russia a kind of outcast, not invited to the sports day, which almost automatically would have meant the defeat of the Russian sports diplomacy and the country as a whole. A boycott of the Games political dividends are also unlikely to be brought to split the sporting world by analogy with 1984 clearly could not, but to alienate both domestic and international public opinion — easily. Do not forget that the Games in Rio precede parliamentary elections in Russia, and the presence of athletes — even a few — for government benefits.

Doping scandal seriously weakened the sporting potential of the Russian team, but it should be noted that even the presence of all the stars in the team would not have allowed Russia to achieve, in Rio, the global athletic excellence. Private victories will be, and the country finds new heroes or remember the old. To a mass audience that will be quite enough, as it does not specific people, and victory. The reaction of Sergey Shubenkov, world champion in run on 110 m with barriers removed from the Game along with the entire track and field team, who in his Twitter account ironically remarked: “If the people so the sport is now experiencing, why on athletics stands are empty?”

The sacrificial hero

In political psychology, it is considered that the most universal and effective impact on the audience produces a politician positioning himself as the hero (winner) or the victim (unfairly hurt). In itself, the presence of Russia at the Games after such a massive attack on the Russian sports and Russian government allows the country’s leadership to occupy a favorable position, alternately trying on the clothes of the hero and the victim. Denial of admission of certain Russian athletes to the Games easily served as a blow to Russian sports, a blow to Russia, and therefore, the principle of “our beat”. And when beaten, it is necessary to unite to repel. Given the personalistic nature of power in the country, the Association inevitably occurs around a national leader who plays the role of protector of everyone. In this sense, the President by default gaining political Vista, as it acts as its defender from external threats, while acting in the interests of (unjustly) offended. Massively replicated frames in tears on the meeting with the President Yelena Isinbayeva — the brightest domestic stars not admitted to the Games, to publicly recognize the love to the President and seeking its protection to demonstrate the great potential of constructing a positive image of Putin.

I would venture to suggest that the results of Games will not significantly affect the alignment of political forces and priorities of the country’s leadership now shifted in the direction of the 11 cities hosting the world Cup in 2018. It remains to wish success to the Russian athletes who get to Rio, and to sympathize with those for whom Rio, as the great schemer of Ostap Bender, there was only a distant dream.

The authors ‘ point of view, articles which are published in the section “Opinions” may not coincide with ideas of editorial.