IOC President Thomas Bach Gave An Olympics Opening Ceremony Speech & He Had A Message For Russia
During the opening ceremony, the president of the International Olympic Committee gave a speech that seemed to throw a bit of shade at Russia. Thomas Bach told the gathered athletes to "stay clean," seemingly referencing the doping scandal that threatened to disqualify Russia's entire delegation from the games.
"You can only really enjoy your Olympic performance if you respect the rules, and stay clean," Bach said. "Only then will your lifelong memories be the memories of a true and worthy Olympian."
The IOC banned Russia from this iteration of the Olympics on Dec. 5 in response to a series of reports that revealed widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs among Russian athletes. Vox called the decision "arguably the harshest punishment in Olympic history." The committee allowed only the Russian athletes who had never received a drug violation and been regularly tested to compete.
But they aren't considered to be representing Russia at the games. Instead, their delegation of 169 athletes is called the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR). During the opening ceremony, they marched under the Olympic banner instead of the Russian flag and wore plain uniforms of gray coats and white scarves. If these any of these athletes gets a medal, the Olympic anthem will play instead of the Russian national anthem.
Just hours before the march, the IOC denied a last-ditch appeal from 47 banned Russian athletes and coaches to be able to participate.
Evidently, Bach didn't think that all of these punishments were enough of a deterrent for athletes who might still be considering taking drugs during the games. So, he used his speech to send another stern message.
"This will be the competition of your life," he told the athletes, and laid on some guilt:
Over the next days, the world will be looking to you for inspiration. ... You will inspire us by competing for the highest honor in the Olympic spirit of excellence, respect and fair play. You can only really enjoy your Olympic performance if you respect the rules, and stay clean. Only then will your lifelong memories be the memories of a true and worthy Olympian.
Russian athletes aren't the first to get in trouble for doping, but they are the first to have been accused of doing so with the support of their nation's top officials. The Associated Press labeled it "a state-backed doping program."
The Russian government still denies that such a program exists. In December, Deputy Prime Minister Vitaly Mutko stated that "there has never been and will never be any state programs related to doping." Instead, he has insisted that Russia merely failed to catch individual athletes who were engaged in the behavior. Mutko himself has been implicated in the program and was banned from the Olympics for life.
Many athletes who competed in the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were later found to have used doping to improve their performance. These people had any medals they won revoked. Russia retroactively lost six out of its 33 medals, losing the top spot in the overall medal count to the United States, which achieved 28. Over 1,000 athletes were found to have benefited from the Russian doping program between 2011 and 2015, according to a report commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
Despite the fact that 47 people have been banned, the permitted group of 169 Russian athletes is still one of the largest delegations at the PyeongChang Olympics.