08/12/2021, 17.09
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Moscow Patriarch Kirill praises Russian Olympic athletes

by Vladimir Rozanskij

For the Patriarch, “sport is not always separated from politics; we saw this as the Games went on”. Before the Olympics, Russia was penalised for violating anti-doping rules. Sport is a means to hold together the Orthodox sphere in the former Soviet Union. Orthodox faith is exalted as "spiritual energy" to compete in the Olympics.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – After Russian athletes arrived home from Tokyo, the Patriarch of Moscow Kirill (Gundyayev) thanked them publicly for their successes at the Olympic Games, wishing them more in the future.

After blatantly breaking anti-doping rules in previous years, Russian athletes had to compete in Japan under the neutral flag of the Russian Olympic Committee, a situation Russian authorities described as evidence of “Western Russophobia”.

On Tuesday Patriarch Kirill noted that "unfortunately sport is not always separated from politics; we saw this as the Games went on.” Nevertheless, “no political bias could reduce the magnitude” of the results achieved by Russian athletes.

The patriarch added that their performances “are evident in the eyes of professionals and all honest people, not to mention the millions of our compatriots who suffered with hope together [with the athletes] throughout the Olympics.”

The Russians won 71 medals in Tokyo, including 20 gold, coming fifth in the overall medal table, in line with previous Olympic Games. In light of this, the Russian patriarch praised the athletes for representing Russia in a worthy way.

“Despite the difficult conditions in which the competitions took place, you fought heroically for victory, exhibiting an inflexible will, genuine solidarity, and mutual support.”

“You have shown the whole world that at the foundation of Russian sport lies, above all, the tension of an honest fight to achieve maximum results.”

According to the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, “victory is only worthy of those who do not rise with presumption over the adversary”. He claimed that Russian athletes addressed everyone with “the same respect”, showing fraternal sentiments, especially towards the rivals of those countries and “peoples united to us by blood and faith, despite the often artificial external divisions”.

As Patriarch of all the Russias, Kirill said that he also cheered for the athletes of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Moldova and other nations "who until recently made up with us our great common homeland”.

The Russian Orthodox Church supports the great Soviet "ideology of victory" and the unity of the whole "Russian world" as a universal. And sports are a very important element in this mindset.

This year, for example a church dedicated to “all Russian athletes” was blessed in Moscow. Located in Butovo, on the outskirts of the capital, it is entrusted to Fr Andrei Alexeyev, chaplain of the Russian Olympic team.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection, which is the church of the Armed Forces, was inaugurated in 2020 to mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory in the Second World War; it too was dedicated to Russian-Soviet Olympic victories, in addition to Russia’s military glory.

The patriarch noted that before leaving for Tokyo many athletes prayed with him in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. “From the Orthodox faith you have been able to draw the spiritual energies to overcome the many trials and difficulties you have encountered on your Olympic journey,” he said.

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