Chinese sports fans set example by being open-minded, contrasting calls for banning Russia
Published: Feb 22, 2023 12:25 AM
Anna Shcherbakova of ROC Photo:Li Hao/GT

Anna Shcherbakova of ROC Photo:Li Hao/GT

The latest call by certain Western sports heavyweights to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete internationally has once again underlined the hypocrisy and double standards of Western politicians. In contrast, Chinese fans have continued to show their sports spirit by supporting athletes without regard for where they come from.

Last week, Chinese fans sent greetings to Olympic figure skating champion Anna Shcherbakova on a giant billboard at Times Square in New York to mark the one-year anniversary of her Olympic gold medal win. As the screen in the busiest area of the metropolis played video clips of the Russian prodigy's performances during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the greetings were shown through both Chinese and English subtitles.

The video was broadcast twice a day, according to Sputnik News on Monday. A similar video was also featured on a Beijing billboard more than 60 times on Friday, with each broadcast lasting for about 15 seconds. 

Alongside other Russian and Belarusian athletes, Shcherbakova, who was nominated by the International Skating Union earlier in 2023 for Most Valuable Skater, has been prevented from competing at international competitions since the end of the Winter Olympics. 

Some may accuse Chinese fans of taking sides, but that is not the case. Chinese fans have also carried out similar activities for other world leading athletes, such as figure skating ace Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan and soccer megastar Lionel Messi, who won the FIFA World Cup in 2022.

The IOC is working on establishing a pathway for athletes from these two countries to compete under a neutral flag, but this has been blatantly rejected by countries who "raised concerns" on Monday. Internationally, Russian and Belarusian athletes face strong discrimination when competing, even when they are competing as neutral athletes.

Belarusian tennis star Victoria Azarenka got bristled at a press conference in January during the Australian Open, as journalists continued to question her over her stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

"These incidents in my opinion have nothing to do with players," she replied. 

Her compatriot Aryna Sabalenka, who won the Australian Open in January while competing under a neutral flag, admitted that the conflict affects her a lot but it's not her fault as she has zero control over the situation.  

Russian and Belarusian athletes have become the victims of politics. As the International Olympic Committee underlined, no athlete should be prevented from competing because of their passport. Athletes should be allowed to compete, instead of having their opportunities being taken away by politicians.

The author is an editor of the Global Times.