The Washington Post reports Russian Olympic athletes have been given a set of recommended answers to any “provocative” questions they might be asked during the upcoming Tokyo Games.
According to the newspaper,
On topics ranging from the Black Lives Matter movement to Russia’s sports doping scandal to the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula, Russian athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have been instructed not to voice their opinions, the Russian Vedomosti news outlet reported Wednesday.
My reaction: Good.
Let’s be frank: With the possible exception of Chinese athletes, no group of athletes will be under a harsher spotlight than the Russians during the upcoming Summer Games. The Western media will eagerly turn a controversial answer — no matter how benign it might be — offered by a Russian athlete into a major “news” moment. Whether that answer was deemed “inconsistent” with American/Western values or “proof” that the Kremlin is “hostile” to the West, the reality is still the same: An entire news cycle — and maybe a second — would be devoted to what the athlete said and how it poorly represents the current state of affairs within Russia.
Keep something else in mind: The Washington Post wants to spin this “be careful” message from Russian officials into a reminder about the Soviet era.
The ROC’s memo is reminiscent of Soviet times, when KGB agents often accompanied athletes participating in competitions abroad and kept them on a tight leash. Konstantin Gyanov, a former KGB officer tasked with watching the athletes, said in an interview with PBS that before traveling to a major international competition, Soviet sportsmen were typically gathered for a lecture from the government’s sports leadership.
There is nothing Soviet about this government effort. Rather, it is an appropriate warning to its athletes to not allow themselves to become fodder for the anti-Russia narrative built into Western media storytelling.