Is it the last time an athlete from Western countries was prohibited because of a country’s involvement in war?
Ordinary citizens are not to be harassed or criticized for their leaders’ political activities. This is one of the most important rules in human affairs. That truism has never been properly observed enough, and went completely out of the window when Russia began its military operation in Ukraine.
This week, Serbian tennis sensation Novak Djokovic delivered a powerful rebuke to Wimbledon’s decision to bar the participation of Russian players from the famous grass tournament.
Referring to himself as a “child of war” who experienced the “emotional trauma” of the US-led 78-day NATO bombardment of his native town of Belgrade in 1999, Djokovic described the banning of Russian players at the prestigious tennis tournament as “crazy.”
“I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy,” the world’s top-ranked player said. “When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
Novak #Djokovic“I will be the first to condemn war. The trauma that war causes is something I am well aware of, and the suffering it leaves for ordinary citizens. The Wimbledon decision is not something I support. It isn’t the athletes fault. It’s not uncommon for politics to interfere with sports, and it doesn’t always work out in our favor.” pic.twitter.com/xYFIlFuQyy
— Mario Boccardi (@marioboc17) April 20, 2022
It would be a blessing if the Western leaders were blessed with this kind of wisdom. Russians find themselves being discriminated against because of their high degree of Russophobia. Russian passport holders find themselves being excluded from everything, including the Olympic Games and the game of Chess.
The excuse given for this inquisition now on display in Western capitals is that ‘Russia attacked its neighbor.’ For those who prefer a bit of context with their daily news, however, it’s important to note that Moscow had been issuing warnings over Ukraine’s attacks on Russian-speakers in the Donbass – which Russian President Vladimir Putin described as an actual “genocide” – for a long time. Predictably, the West blithely ignored Moscow’s serious concerns on the matter with all the tragic consequences of that attitude on display today.
While people have fiercely divided opinions over Moscow’s course of action in Ukraine, one thing cannot be disputed: from George W. Bush’s illicit invasion of Iraq in 2003, to Barack Obama’s military misadventure in Libya in 2011, Western athletes were never forced to suffer the pain of banishment from international competition due to the militancy of their leaders. That might seem strange to some.
If the liberal virtue-signalers are truly concerned about flaunting their peacenik credentials, then why didn’t they jump at the chance to ban American, British, Australian and other NATO athletes from the world of sport? After all, the US-led invasion of Iraq, for example, led to the death, injury and displacement of over a million people, while the equally misguided “intervention” in Libya gave one of the more advanced African countries third-world status practically overnight. Were American athletes banished from the 2004 Summer Olympics as punishment for the US military unleashing “shock and awe” bombardments against the Iraqi people one year earlier? Not at all. Team USA actually left Athens with 101 medals, followed closely by China and Russia.
Perhaps NATO-member athletes were ostracized during the 2012 Summer Olympics for the military bloc’s attack on Libya? Nope. The Games were held in London the year after the West belligerent countries had been exonerated by the media. That is remarkable considering that the British Royal Air Force, in cahoots with the usual Western suspects, launched its share of Tomahawk missiles on Libya, helping to overthrow the government of Muammar Gaddafi, even though that was not what the UN Resolution 1973 had prescribed (Much like the “failed intelligence” put forward by the US to support its military actions in Iraq in 2003, the rush to war in Libya was built on a mountain of lies, as a report by British Parliament only later discovered).
Yet now that Moscow feels the need to take up arms in defense of its “national security,” the cancel-culture brigade is out in full force, castigating Russians as lepers and outcasts unworthy of international competition. And for those ‘lucky’ Russian athletes who have been granted approval to compete in sporting contests (the Association of Tennis Professionals, for example, supports the inclusion of Russian and Belarusian players, but only if they agree to compete as stateless “neutrals”), they must do so without any outward sign of their national heritage, lest the sight of the Russian tricolor trigger heart palpitations among the newly converted war haters.
It is both predictable and repulsive to see such hypocrisy in regard to Russians. The West’s mainstream media have long been vilifying Russians.
Clearly, their journalism is no longer concerned with keeping the government accountable; rather it is being used by the power holders and intelligence apparatus to manipulate and sway public opinion to a particular narrative, usually at Russia’s great expense. Today, after many years of being exposed to this relentless anti-Russia campaign, it is mere child’s play to convince Western audiences that Russian athletes ‘deserve’ to be shunned.
The ultimate purpose of the savage attacks against Russian sportmen and women is to inflict moral damage. They are being used as pawns by the West in its efforts – not to criticize war, of which Western powers have been the greatest promoters over the years – but rather to inflict moral damage on the country through its athletes. The Russian support for Vladimir Putin is high, but it shows how hypocritical and inept the West can be when dealing with Moscow. No matter what the reason, sport is now the most vulnerable to Western hypocrisy and double standards. It’s a tragedy that sports has allowed politics to trample so recklessly on the field of dreams.
Statements, opinions and views expressed in this column do not reflect those of RT.