Water slalom skier and Olympic champion Jiří Prskavec (pictured on September 12, 2022).
Prague – Olympic champion in water slalom Jiří Prskavec is against the participation of Russian athletes in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris, which is being considered by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). On Twitter, in addition to the current aggression in Ukraine, he added other reasons for the exclusion of this sports power. However, he considers a possible boycott by athletes to be problematic. Also because it would make the path to medals easier for Russian athletes.
Two-time world champion Prskavec commented on the current events from Réunion, where he is preparing for this year's season, on the social network. He drew attention to the previous transgressions of Russia, whose athletes could start as neutrals at the 2021 Olympic Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing despite the doping scandal. “They attacked Ukraine during the Peace Olympics and thus directly violated the Olympic Charter. They crossed the line so many times and got away with it so many times,” added Prskavec.
Although the Olympic Games are held in a year and a half, due to the qualifications, this question is relevant now. “If athletes from Russia are not allowed to start in this year's Olympic qualifiers, 90 percent of them will not be there. That question is topical and it is up to every sport to behave properly, regardless of the IOC,” he wrote.
However, he sees non-participation under five rings due to the start of Russian athletes as the last option. “It is very difficult for me to answer whether I would be able to boycott the Games. It is not one race,” he said, adding that Russian athletes would probably return to the international scene elsewhere. And then athletes from other states would compete against them at other events. Another possibility would be to interrupt his career until the end of the war in Ukraine. “We are also just people, and our sport is also our job. I don't play tennis, so it's really not possible to just lie down for two years and have no income,” he emphasized.
Moreover, he fears that a boycott could be counterproductive. “Honestly, I am not even convinced that the boycott step by the athletes is more. The moment Russia is there and we clear the field, we can pat ourselves on the back, but realistically they will have a much easier path to a medal and thus to the eventual promotion of the regime ,” he added.
He realizes that the position of the world federations may not be as clear-cut as it might seem from a European perspective. “Every international sports federation is a democratic institution that must listen to voices from all over the world, and even if I don't like it, I have to admit that even in our sport there is no consensus. All continents except Europe are willing to consider the return of the Russians,” he said.
He thinks that one of the reasons may be the previous behavior of European leaders, who did not react sufficiently to, for example, human rights violations in China. “If we look at history, for example, for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when China brutally suppressed the Tibetan uprising, we did not behave in solidarity and the only person from Europe who boycotted the Olympics was Angela Merkel. All of Europe went to the games, including all the politicians. We cannot curse then other continents, when we were equally indifferent to problems that did not directly concern us. People were also dying there, human rights were also being violated, and we were silent,” he added.
The Czech Olympic Committee, the National Sports Agency and the government expressed disapproval of the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in the Olympic Games in Paris. At the same time, they are against the boycott. The chairman of the NSA presented this position at an international conference on Friday, where sports ministers and other top representatives of 35 countries, including the USA, Germany, and Australia, agreed to exclude the Russians from the Olympics in Paris.