MOSCOW: Some 70 Russian competitors from the country’s depleted Olympics team flew out from Moscow for Rio on Thursday as sports federations whittled down the number of athletes allowed to take part.
Dressed in red and white sports uniforms the Olympic hopefuls including Russia’s volleyball, handball and synchronised swimming squads received a warm send-off despite the scandal over state-run doping that has seen over 100 competitors banned.
“They have got us fired up but in a good way. We are going to fight more to prove that it is difficult to break Russia,” handball player Polina Kuznetsova told AFP.
No blanket ban for Russia divides opinion
“We will fight for those who were not able to go.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) sparked fierce criticism from outside Russia on Sunday when it resisted a blanket ban on the country in favour of allowing individual sports federations to make the call on which Russians can go to Rio.
International sports federations are now scrambling to vet Russian athletes as time ticks down to the start of the Games on August 5.
“We anxiously waited for this day, we worried. You know yourselves what the situation is,” Alexander Zhukov, the head of Russia’s Olympic Committee was quoted as saying by TASS news agency.
Relief: Russia will go to Rio after all
“It is now time to put all doubts aside: the Russian team is going to the Olympics.”
Some Russian competitors are already in Brazil acclimatising to the conditions, but despite Thursday’s triumphal farewell it remains unclear how many of the 387-strong squad Moscow named last week will eventually compete.
The track and field team — including stars Yelena Isinbayeva and Sergey Shubenkov — has been banned en masse and now rowers, swimmers, weightlifters and canoeists have been added to the list.
Call for Russia ban from Olympics after probe finds state-run doping
Zhukov said that less than 100 Russian competitors were still waiting to find out their fates and that the final makeup of the team should be announced over the weekend just a few days before the start of the Games.
The latest doping scandal to rock Olympic and Russian sport was triggered this month by Canadian law professor Richard McLaren whose report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) detailed an elaborate doping system directed by the Moscow sports ministry and used in more than 30 sports over four years.
Courtesy : Express Tribune