— Published 9 May 2023

Advocacy for Winter Games in Ukraine

The 2030 Winter Games awarded to Ukraine as a symbol of the power of sport over politics? The idea may seem fanciful. With just over a year to go before the IOC Session awards the Games, it even seems very unrealistic.

But in Japan, where the Sapporo bid is still on hold, an Olympic analyst, Ryoichi Kasuga, supports and defends it. A former director of international relations for the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC), he has developed the arguments and the impact in an article. FrancsJeux publishes it in full.

“Whether sports should be placed below or above politics, that is the point Olympism asks.
In normal times, the government behaves as if sport is above politics, and devours the political benefits it brings. They say, “Olympics create the future” and “Sports are wonderful“. But that is premised on the benefits that lie ahead.

Unfortunately, the Ukrainian government also seems to put sports under politics. According to Franc Jeux and some media, the government of Ukraine may impose sanctions on Ukrainian sports federations if they send athletes to competitions involving Russian and Belarusian athletes. It seems to choose to dominate sports, a place where people can work hand in hand across barriers.

This might be equivalent to the Putin administration, which has made no repentance for breaking the Olympic truce.

At the time of the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022, democratic groups such as the United States announced a diplomatic boycott. At that time, President Bach, International Olympic Committee, took the position that, if the Olympics were held and the athletes were able to participate in the Games, politics doesn’t matter. However, what happened as a result?

Since then, I have argued that at a time when democracy and authoritarianism are at odds, the world’s political leaders should pay tribute to sport and gather in the arena of sport. If this ideal had actually been realized “diplomatically”, the current war would not have happened.

But at the time, public opinion took it for granted that a diplomatic boycott should be tolerated and sport should be subordinated to politics. What was the result? Putin came, but Biden didn’t. Kishida, who could be representing the country which had finally fulfilled its mission to hold the Olympics with overcoming the corona crisis, did not come.

I consider, if political leaders did not ignore the unique relationships through sport, they might avoid the war in Ukraine.

April 6 was the ” International Day of Sport for Development and Peace ” established by the United Nations. IOC President Bach announced the message sent on that day the day before. “Sport can open the door to peace in ways that exclusion and division do not.”

What only sports can do is to calmly suppress politics. Bach said, ” Due to the fact that there are unfortunately far too many wars, armed conflicts and crises in this world, we have seen in almost all editions of the Games athletes compete with each other – as a symbol of peace – despite the fact that their nations are at war or in conflict.”

We might remember such scenes Olympics has given. Among them, we could remember when Ukraine’s Oleksandr Abramenko won the silver medal and Russia’s Ilia Burov won the bronze medal in the freestyle men’s aerials at the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022. After the competition, Burov hugged Abramenko from behind and congratulated him, praising each other. The sight of the athletes respecting each other while competing as representatives of their countries spread on social media and reached people around the world.

At this point, Russia has not invaded Ukraine, but if the figures shown by these two athletes become absolute values, we may be able to see the light for peacebuilding after the war.

If Olympism be the basis, it must be natural to Putin and Lukashenko will be excluded from Olympics and sport. Ironically Zelensky is also missing.

Sport has no choice but to tell people to throw away its weapons and to gather at Olympus across all borders. But isn’t this Mutekatsu-ryu (Samurai method to win the opponents without arms) for “Discourse on Method” to end the war?

What can be done to overcome the current situation? I would like to propose that the 2030 Winter Olympics be held in Ukraine. If we move politics for that purpose, the military will also change. This means that the IOC will not be a referee for political disputes, but rather a guidepost for politics.

Ukraine has announced its bid to host the Winter Olympics in September 2021. Zelensky told the IOC directly about his intention. If Sapporo, whose candidacy for the Winter Olympics 2030 is in jeopardy due to Tokyo Olympics’ corruption scandals, makes efforts to cooperate in realizing that goal, it will be baptized by Olympism and open up new horizons for future hosting the Olympics.

This is the way to revolutionize the current chaotic situation. The time has come for the Olympics to change from a shield to a spear. The Olympics should not only be a shield to protect the athletes, but also will become a spear to create peace.”