Three months are left before the opening of the Winter Olympic Games in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang. The success of the major sports event of the upcoming winter remains questionable, and the International Olympic Committee can make the situation even worse. Should Russia care about the Olympic movement if the Olympic movement does not care about Russia? Maybe this movement needs to die peacefully?
According to the USA Today, the demand for tickets for the Pyeongchang Games is low. As many as 32 percent of all tickets have been sold so far as of October 24, and it was foreign nationals who purchased most of the tickets, while local residents show very little interest in the Games. According to analysts, the situation with tickets can be explained with the geographical position of Pyeongchang: the city is situated only 80 kilometres from the border with the DPRK, with which Seoul formally remains at war (in 1953, the two countries concluded a truce, rather than a peace treaty).
Owing to the efforts of US President Donald Trump, the situation on the border between the two Koreas has aggravated sharply. October 31 was the deadline for the DPRK to send a request to the IOC for the participation of North Korean athletes in the Olympics. Pyongyang ignored the initiative, which means that there will be no "safeguard" in the form of North Korean athletes in Pyeongchang. Who knows what Kim Jong-un may come up with then?
For example, a year before the Summer Olympics in 1988, which Pyongyang also boycotted, a suicide bomber from the DPRK blew up a Korean Air passenger jetliner, killing 115 passengers and crew. In 2002, during the World Cup in South Korea, North Korean patrol boats crossed into disputed waters and sank a South Korean ship, killing six sailors. Today, it would be enough for Kim Jong-un to conduct another nuclear test on the border with the South.
Against the backdrop of such pessimistic sentiments, the UK develops an evacuation plan for its team in the event of increased tensions, while France and other countries negotiate special terms for sending their athletes to Pyeongchang.
Common tourists do not travel to the land of the 2018 Winter Olympics either. This year, the tourist flow in South Korea has fallen by 24 percent. The number of Chinese tourists in South Korea has halved after Beijing, in response to the deployment of the US missile defence system around Seoul, banned organised tours and charter flights to South Korea. As many as eleven new hotels in the Pyeongchang area remain unfinished.
The Winter Olympic Games in 2018 are likely to be considered a failure unless major changes take place on the eve, Kim Yukyoum, a professor at the Faculty of Sports at the National University of Seoul believes. The biggest problem, as he told Bloomberg, is the fact that Seoul does not have a message to send to the general public about the importance of the Games and what South Korea can do for the event.
It does not look like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has such a message either? The IOC may make a decision that discriminates against one of the strongest teams - the Russian national team. A decision against team Russia would thus be made against the Olympic movement on the whole. There is a petition from 17 countries to suspend team Russia from the 2018 Games for doping.
On November 7, The New York Times wrote that the IOC could ban the performance of the Russian anthem during the competitions. The IOC rebutted the information, calling it "premature speculation." The key word here is "premature," which means that one may expect any decision in a situation when McLaren himself admitted that he had no evidence to prove state support for doping in Russia.
The Kremlin believes that Russian athletes performing with no national anthem being played when they win is not the red line. "We will not harm the Olympic movement," Putin's official spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. Would it be better to let this movement take care of itself if there is no reciprocity?
Humiliating Russia is unacceptable. The Russian Continental Hockey League stated that CHL ice hockey players would not take part in the 2018 Games should the IOC exclude Russian athletes from competitions in South Korea. The decision about team Russia in South Korea is to be made on December 5.
Lyuba Lulko (Stepushova)
Read article on the Russian version of Pravda.Ru
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko had a telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan