Paralympics in times of war: How political is the sport? | – Sports

Status: 03/03/2022 5:27 p.m

The athletes from Russia and Belarus are not allowed to compete in the Paralympics in Beijing. A conversation with the sports philosopher Gunter Gebauer.

Mr. Gebauer, is it actually fair to take athletes into a kind of clan liability for the actions of their president?

“Sport is much more political than the associations want to admit,” says Gunter Gebauer.

Gunther Gebauer: The first thing to ask is whether it’s fair to kill Ukrainian athletes. This has now happened in somewhat larger numbers with winter sports enthusiasts, soccer players, tennis players and so on. You have to answer that. The main problem is not that you want to meet individual athletes. There are also athletes who oppose it, at least in private conversations. The problem is that in sports – unlike when Mrs. Netrebko sings or Gergiev conducts – people have to compete against each other. Soccer players from Leipzig, for example, were originally supposed to play against soccer players from Moscow and so on. We also have this problem at the Paralympics: Russian athletes have to compete against other athletes who have nothing to do with the war. And these athletes don’t want to fight Russians.

It is always said that the Olympic Movement is apolitical. Anyone who violates this at the Olympic Games must expect sanctions. But isn’t it a deeply political decision to exclude these two states?

builder: Yes, of course it is political. And the reasoning of the international associations is also wrong. Because these associations are based on a foundation of peace and freedom when they organize sport internationally. If this reason is not given, then no sport can take place. So if there is a war between two countries, the athletes can no longer fight each other. Or this fight is then war, and you don’t want that either. The sport is much more political than the associations want to admit.

Further information

Flag of the Russian Paralympic Committee © imago images

2 Min

According to the International Paralympic Committee, several federations, teams and athletes have threatened to boycott the games. 2 mins

On Wednesday it was still said that the athletes from Russia and Belarus are allowed to start – on Thursday the roll backwards: You will be excluded. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) does not appear to be insightful and remorseful, but says they have bowed to boycott threats from national federations. So is the IPC basically the savior of the Paralympics?

builder: It would be very strange if the rescuers are those who are happy with the war and want to play sports despite acts of war, despite the bombardment of large cities in Ukraine. That is a nonsensical decision that is deeply contrary to sport. And they had to be pushed to make that decision in the first place because many of the Paralympic athletes involved were unwilling to fight Russian athletes.

What is the value of the games if 83 of the 650 registered athletes don’t come? Maybe certain competitions can’t be practiced at all, right?

builder: Yes, that’s unfortunate, but the Olympic Games are not only measured by the number of participants. In the original Olympics, when it comes to it, it was a low three-digit total of participants. A big movement grew out of this. The number itself is not important at all. I think it’s important that the Olympic Games can take place despite acts of war – but not with those who are at war.

Further information

This image from a video shows the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant.  © dpa-Bildfunk

Russia is said to have shelled a Ukrainian nuclear power plant. The Kremlin denies. CDU boss Merz warned on NDR Info of a new level of escalation. News about the war at a glance. more

The Paralympic Games are back in Beijing, just like the Olympic Games that just ended. At the time we asked ourselves: is that even possible, the Olympic Games in a “dictatorship” like China? It doesn’t matter anymore now, does it?

builder: That still matters. That will not go unnoticed by those involved. We already saw that at the Olympic Games for the able-bodied, that they did take place, but under very special conditions, which were strongly influenced by the over-caution and oversight of the Chinese authorities. The Olympics were a very strange affair anyway. One can hardly say that they were particularly free and particularly happy games. I thought it was a big mistake to give the games to Beijing. You knew what was going on in China and there were enough reasons not to let these games take place. But the main games have already taken place and now the disabled are basically being punished by being sent home without being allowed to play.

There could also be peace talks at the Paralympic Games. How will the IPC deal with it then? Because these are political statements that are actually not allowed.

builder: The basis of the games in general is peace, freedom and international understanding. If that is not the case, then no sport can take place at all. So when you protest against war and campaign for peace to prevail, that’s a campaign for the possibility that the Olympic Games can take place. It’s not the case that every political act is forbidden – then the merger of the Olympic Committee would also have to be forbidden, because that’s also a political act. Just like entry, border controls and so on.

The thing is that the big federations, especially FIFA and the IOC, decide what is political. This is a power tool for them, because if they use this power tool, they can exclude people at will by saying that they have made political statements. That is the main point of this policy clause.

The interview led Jurgen Deppe.

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NDR Culture | Journal | 03.03.2022 | 18:00

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