Bitter Russian Olympians Are Having a Total Bitchfest in Tokyo
Seemingly butthurt over the Olympics’ Russia ban, the country’s athletes and TV pundits keep whining about conditions in Tokyo—as if Sochi was any better.
Russia has a real problem with the Tokyo Olympics. Nothing is quite right, the atmosphere is “depressing,” and the accommodations are “medieval,” according to major Russian media outlets and the athletes giving interviews to them from Japan.
Forget the infamous “Sochi Problems” of the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, where athletes slept in rooms with faulty toilets, had no internet or hot water, and were at risk of exposed live wires falling down on them from shower ceilings. No, in Russia, it’s the Tokyo Games that are being likened to “concentration camps,” “the most horrific Games in history,” according to Russian sports writer Andrey Vdovin.
Though the global pandemic has certainly resulted in logistical issues at this year’s Games, Russia has a particular bone to pick. The country is currently serving a four-year competitive ban for doping, which has forced its athletes to compete in Tokyo under the name of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The penalty, which Vladimir Putin has described as a “humiliation,” and athletes have called “insulting,” includes a total ban on Russia’s name, flag and anthem at the 2020 Games.
Now, Russian participants are having a field day bashing the living conditions in Tokyo. “Surprised by the cardboard beds,” Olympic gymnast Angelina Melnikova told state TV channel Rossiya-24 on Friday. “There isn’t even a refrigerator.” Melnikova moaned to Russia’s top digital sports publisher Sports Ru, “I thought the Japanese were such pedantic people who do everything perfectly… I was unpleasantly shocked.”
Fencing coach Ilgar Mamedov whined about having to use a screwdriver to fix a faulty shower-head. He complained about the size of the bathrooms, and their scarcity: “The bathroom is the same size as on the airplane. Our poor athletes—who need to get to their competitions—will have to stand in line,” he told state media outlet TASS last week.
Handballer Anna Vyakhireva painted a horror-movie picture to Russia’s Tele Sport. “Low ceilings are closing down on me, and the living quarters are too cramped,” she said. “There is not enough room. It’s too dark to breathe. As a whole, conditions are rough.”
Tennis player Elena Vesnina posted an Instagram video where she and other Russian athletes laughed out loud at their accommodations, mocking the size of the rooms and the infamous cardboard beds. A male sportsman—whose first name just happens to be Karen—complained that there was no soap in his bathroom, and posed for pictures on his tiptoes to create the impression that his head pressed right up against the ceiling. The picture was later used by the Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda, without an explanation that it was staged.
Komsomolskaya Pravda also reported that Russian handball player Vladlena Bobrovnikova is “in shock” at the modest, minimalist accommodations, and is “appalled by the living conditions at the Olympic village.” Members of the Russian team have compared the accommodations to “medieval Japan,” grumbling about the lack of TVs, refrigerators and bathrooms that Russian athletes found too small for their liking, “I’ve never heard a story like this before. We have a good system in place,” Tokyo 2020 official Toshiro Muto said in response to the complaints.
“In all seriousness, I’m certain that these Olympic Games are one of the last ones ever. I’m sure of that,” Anatoly Kuzichev, the host of the state TV program Time Will Tell lamented earlier this month.
It appears as though every Olympic decision is being portrayed as part of a relentless anti-Russia campaign. Vladimir Sergienko, a panelist on Time Will Tell, described the Olympics as a “minefield” where Russia is the target of a “global conspiracy,” aimed at stealing “his pride for the Motherland” by depriving Russian athletes of their right to carry their country’s flag. Pro-Kremlin publications were even triggered by the choice of Sue Bird to serve as the flag bearer for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, describing it as “another American provocation,” since Bird, who is Megan Rapinoe’s fiancée, is “a well-known proponent of the LGBT lifestyle.”
In a move reminiscent of the Soviet era, when KGB officers would accompany the delegation of athletes abroad, Russian athletes have been armed with written guidance on how to answer questions from Western journalists.
For instance, Russian sportsmen are expected to answer with some variation of “No comment” to most questions about BLM, Crimea, Donbas, doping, sexual harassment, LGBTQ issues and the Olympics’ Russia ban. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov approvingly spoke of the recommendations, which he said were designed to shield Russian athletes from Western “provocations.”
Meanwhile, state media outlet RT has been churning out claims that no one is rooting for Team USA at the Olympics because America’s true patriots—the Capitol insurrectionists—are “still rotting in solitary confinement,” having been “jailed on patently political grounds.” To paint an idyllic image of the rioters who chanted “Hang Mike Pence,” smeared feces in the Capitol halls, and beat police officers, RT claimed that the jailed insurrectionists “sing the national anthem every night.” In Putin’s Russia, it seems that those Americans are the only ones worth rooting for.