The IOC Is Wrong to Ban Ukrainian Athletes From Commemorating the Dead in Kiev

How It Works
Feb. 19 2014 12:03 PM

Remind Me What the IOC Considers “Political” Again?

Dmytro Mytsak of Ukraine competes in the giant slalom on Feb. 19, 2014, in Sochi, Russia.

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee has apparently banned Ukrainian athletes in Sochi from wearing black armbands to commemorate those killed in Kiev yesterday:

Joshua Keating Joshua Keating

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 

The country's Olympic association said in a statement that it had asked the IOC if its competitors could mark the "deep pain over the loss of fellow countrymen" by wearing black armbands. "The answer was received from the IOC that in accordance with the Olympic charter it is not possible to do this."

The IOC's discomfort with any sort of political expression at the games has never appeared more confused or contradictory. Just in case you’re keeping score, an opening ceremony in which four of the six people who lit the Olympic flame were members of the State Duma from the Russian president’s party is in accordance with the Olympic charter but an armband meant to commemorate the deaths of 25 people, including both police and protesters, is too political.


Athletes can use their helmets to promote their personal charities but not acknowledge the greatest tragedy in their country’s recent history—or the death of a fellow competitor, for that matter.

It’s OK for the president of the IOC to call for an end to “discrimination on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender, sexual orientation,” but the organization defends the forceful removal of an activist calling for the same thing.

It’s not as if the Ukrainian athletes won’t be asked about these events anyway. “Even just now at the start, at the finish, people are saying 'what's happened in your country, what's happened?' " said giant slalom skier Dmytro Mytsak. Sergey Bubka, the legendary Ukrainian pole-vaulter and president of his country’s Olympic committee—also a former MP from President Viktor Yanukovych’s party—has also called for an end to the violence on his Twitter feed.

Russia is directly involved in what’s happening in Ukraine, and armbands or no, the IOC can’t just make what’s going on in Kiev disappear for the next week. 

Joshua Keating is a staff writer at Slate focusing on international affairs and writes the World blog. 



More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

My Father Was James Brown. I Watched Him Beat My Mother. Then I Married Someone Like Him.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 2:57 PM ISIS Helps Snuff Out Conservative Opposition to Government Funding Bill
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 1:59 PM Ask a Homo: Secret Ally Codes 
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 1:26 PM Hey CBS, Rihanna Is Exactly Who I Want to See on My TV Before NFL Games
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 1:01 PM A Rare, Very Unusual Interview With Michael Jackson, Animated
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 12:35 PM IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 17 2014 11:18 AM A Bridge Across the Sky
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?