Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Welcome Back, Comrades!

There was a major decision to be made today regarding Russia's inclusion at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, and it turns out that the International Olympic Committee may actually have a spine! After the state-sponsored drug scandal by the Russians was uncovered and exposed in Sochi, a vast number of Russian athletes have been found guilty of doping, causing the IOC headaches over this incredible amount of doping at the Olympics not seen since the days of East Germany. The question of what to do about the Russians was to be answered by the IOC today, and it seems they found the will to do what most believed they wouldn't.

The IOC's full slate of findings and its announcement can be read here, but the summary of the decisions is as follows:
In short, Russia, as a country, has been banned from the upcoming Olympics and has been fined $15 million by the IOC for the doping scandal. Further to this, clean Russian athletes will be permitted to take part if they are scrutinized and found by a panel to be clean athletes, but will compete under the name "Olympic Athletes from Russia" and abbreviated "OAR" at the Winter Games. The Russian flag nor the Russian national anthem will be part of the 2018 Winter Olympics. There were several individuals identified in the findings as well - including KHL President Dmitry Chernyshenko - who will lose their standings within the various Olympic Organising Committees and/or with the Olympics altogether. Needless to say, the IOC did right.

Obviously, Russia will have to respond to this, and we've already heard the KHL boast about not allowing any players of any nationality play at the Olympic Games if the IOC imposed a ban on Russia over the doping scandal. With Russia being the favorites to win the gold medal after the NHL prevented its players from playing, it might be time to ask a big "What If" regarding the Russian men's and women's Olympic teams.

What if they wore the old CCCP uniforms?

Now, obviously that might be in poor taste, but if Putin and the Russian Olympic Committee really want to stick it to the IOC, why not break out the old CCCP uniforms and let their hockey teams rule the ice like they once did?

Julia Ioffe wrote an incredible piece in The Atlantic about Russia's humiliation in 2010 and 2014 on the ice that seems to have haunted Vladimir Putin for the last eight years. Politically, it seems there were idealisms that if the Russian Olympic team did well in Sochi, Putin would gain the confidence in annexing Ukraine. The Russians did do well in Sochi prior to the drug scandal being exposed and costing Russia a number of medals, and Russia did annex Ukraine before that idea fell apart and costing Russia millions of dollars as well.

The idealism of Vladimir Putin trying to pull the Soviet Union back together as it had been when he was working his way through the rank-and-file of the Russian military and political systems would be thrust into reality if Kovalchuk, Datsyuk, and Markov arrived in Pyeongchang wearing the iconic jersey below.
And, really, what could the IOC say or do? They're abiding by the rules laid out to them that the flags and crests of Russia not be worn, so it's not like the IOC could demand that the players change their uniforms. This move, if it happened, would be a metaphorical middle finger to the IOC and the west by Vladimir Putin and his minions when it came to the sanctions levied against his country.

Personally, I'm kind of rooting for this to happen just to see the reactions.

In any case, the KHL and Russia will need to decide what to do now that the IOC has ruled on the matter. If the KHL holds true to its threat, the Russian team won't be so ridiculously talented. But if they back off and send the boys over, the old Soviet Socialist Republic jerseys would be the icing on the cake, especially if Russia wins the gold medal in men's hockey.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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