The ‘special precautions’ continue Russian Olympians left unable to train while quarantining ahead of meeting with Vladimir Putin
The Russian Olympic Committee’s medalists from the Tokyo Games are being quarantined for seven days ahead of a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. While some athletes have embraced the self-isolation period as a “holiday,” others fear their inability to train properly during this time may affect their performance in upcoming competitions. What’s more, the meeting with Putin has already been postponed by a day. Putin met with the Russian Olympic Committee’s athletes on the eve of the games at the end of June; apparently, the Olympians didn’t quarantine beforehand.
The news that Russian Olympic athletes had been sent into quarantine first emerged on September 1, when Olympic medalist and artistic gymnast Angelina Melnikova wrote about it on her Instagram story. The next day, Russia’s Minister of Sports Oleg Matytsin assured that only gold medalists would have to undergo quarantine — later, it emerged that other prize-winners would also have to isolate at the national team base in Novogorsk, albeit under less strict conditions. Initially, the meeting with Putin was scheduled for September 10, but it was later postponed until the eleventh. The athletes were already in quarantine when the meeting was pushed.
According to the news site Sports.ru, the Olympic-gold winners are undergoing quarantine at the President Hotel in Moscow, where they are each confined to their own rooms. The athletes quarantined in Novogorsk are allowed to visit each other and walk around the building after receiving two negative coronavirus tests, said two-time Olympic champion Vitalina Batasrashkina. The sports shooter also said that she considers staying at the President Hotel a “holiday.”
Angelina Melnikova, however, complained that being forced to quarantine is disrupting her training for the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships, which is set to take place from October 18–24.
“For girls, a week without training [means you’re] almost completely out of shape. We’ll have to try and get ourselves together for the [world championships] in a month. I don’t know what will come of it. I haven’t had such an experience yet,” Melnikova wrote on Instagram. At the same time, in an interview with Sports.ru, she underscored that she had no intention of refusing to meet with the president, calling it a “cool event.”
“I understand that quarantine is for the best, it’s an obligatory measure. It’s clear that at certain moments this may look absurd but…If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. If I go and get angry, the measures won’t change. I found pluses in quarantine. Firstly, for the first time since the Olympics I got enough sleep. Secondly, I took time for myself,” Melnikova said.
According to Sports.ru, some athletes turned down the invitation to meet with the president because they’re already taking part in other competitions — this includes Russian volleyball players and handball players, as well as pole vaulter Anzhelika Sidorova and high jumper Maria Lasistskene. Diver Viktor Minibaev, who took home the bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics, said that he wouldn’t be attending the meeting with the president because he “wasn’t interested” — he felt it was more important to take a vacation after the games (there was also a logistic issue, Minibaev was vacationing abroad and was unable to return to Russia before the start of the quarantine period).
Putin already met with the Russian Olympic Committee athletes in the Kremlin on the eve of the Tokyo Games, June 30. At the time, there were no reports of the athletes having to quarantine. Official footage of the meeting shows Putin giving a farewell speech, while standing at a considerable distance.
The fact that people were made to undergo quarantine before meeting with Vladimir Putin was first reported by the investigative outlet Proekt in September 2020. In March 2021, the BBC Russian Service revealed that Putin’s administration spent billions of rubles on a full-fledged system for quarantining those set to come in contact with the president. Around the same time, Putin received his first dose of Russia’s “Sputnik V” vaccine — but the authorities continued to isolate people who were supposed to meet with him. In July, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov explained that “special precautions” were being taken for the head of state.
On September 9, Putin held talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in Moscow. There were no reports that Lukashenko had to undergo quarantine before the meeting.
Translation by Eilish Hart