Hurdles to Olympic Truce ~ Zelensky and Putin's Olympic tone-deafness

AFP reports that “Ukrainian President Wlodimir Zelensky, in an interview on May 17, rejected French President Emmanuel Macron's call for a suspension of fighting during this summer's Paris Olympics, arguing that it would only benefit Russian forces.

With the Paris Olympics looming, Macron proposed to Zelensky in their meeting that the fighting be suspended. In response, Zelensky said, “Let's be honest... Emmanuel, I don't believe it. Who can guarantee that Russia will not use this time to bring its forces to our territory? First of all, we don't trust Putin”. He replied, “We are against any truce that plays into the hands of the enemy".

Zelensky is right to be against any kind of truce. Putin has used the Olympic truce to his advantage, invading Crimea after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which he had eagerly bid for and successfully hosted. The Olympics closed on February 23, “four days” later. And it was almost annexed before the opening of the Paralympics.

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The invasion of Ukraine was on February 24, after the closing of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, also “four days” after the Olympics closed.

Putin is using the Olympics to gain territory, as measured. The Olympic Truce has been adapted by the UN General Assembly one year before the Olympics since 1993, but in recent years the period has been from seven days before the opening of the Olympics to seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Games.

Putin is using this truce resolution as a tactic to acquire targeted territories while the world is caught off guard. And it must be noted that he has the concept of the “Olympic Truce” in his mind. The action will be taken only after the Olympics are closed, and his plan is to have it settled before the Paralympics begin. He had read that the world would then be blameless.

The invasion of Crimea played out as Putin had planned. The invasion of Ukraine should have gone the same way. But Zelensky stood his ground. The war did not end when the Paralympics began. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which had been forced to suck its finger at the quick-fire invasion of Crimea, could not remain silent this time. This is because the Olympic Truce is the basis of the fundamental principle upon which the modern Olympics was founded.

The Olympics, which is said to be a revival of the ancient Olympia Fest, is a revival of the “truce idea” that the war between the Greek polis was halted for the duration of the festival and the games were held in Olympia, with the aim of building world peace through sport.

What is laughable is that Putin also indicated on May 17 that he would not support the Olympic truce. For Putin, who is at war, the Olympic truce is meaningless.

Macron, who is disciplined in the Olympic spirit, asked President Xi Jinping, who visited France on May 5, to support the “Olympic Truce,” and Xi echoed his request. Come to think of it, Xi also made Putin, who came to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics, promise an “Olympic Truce. Putin showed only his interpretation of the “Olympic Truce,” but Zelensky's unexpected resistance exposed the ruse to the light of day.

In an interview with AFP, Putin was asked if he would support the Olympic Truce during his visit to China, to which he replied, “I think the basic principles of the Olympics, including the ‘Olympic Truce,’ are very right.” These are hardly the words of the man who broke the Olympic Truce. “The IOC does not allow Russian athletes to represent their country at the Olympics and has itself accused Russia of violating the fundamental principles of the Olympic Charter.”

A country that has not been purified for kicking off the Olympic Truce, the cornerstone that supports the Olympic Charter, cannot enter the world of the Olympic ideals.

If so, Zelensky, who kicked Macron's proposal for an “Olympic Truce,” is also on the same ground as Putin. The man who at one time was trying to hold the Winter Olympics in Ukraine is also unwilling to take a stand on believing in the “Olympic Truce.

Zelensky, too, would really like to take a break. But his pride won't allow it. The same goes for Putin. If that is the case, it would not be a bad idea to say, “Let's have a truce” in the name of the “Olympic Truce” and out of respect for it. Athletes from countries that do not support the “Olympic Truce” do not deserve the title of Olympian. It is no wonder that athletes from Ukraine should be treated the same as those from Russia.

The Olympic Charter should be revised to read, “Athletes from countries at war are not allowed to participate in the Olympics. However, athletes who express opposition to war may participate under the Olympic flag.” Would that be an oversimplification?

In any case, I believe that Zelensky's sincere faith in the Olympic movement and his actions will be most effective in silencing Putin.

(Titles omitted)

May 22, 2024

Ryoichi Kasuga