69 years ago, on April 23, 1951, the National Olympic Committee of the USSR was founded with Konstantin Andrianov becoming its first leader. It was under his supervision that Soviet athletes made their debut at the Olympic Games which took place in the summer of 1952 in Helsinki.
… After the end of the so-called “pre-revolutionary period” under the leadership of Vyacheslav Sreznevsky (First Chairman of the Russian Olympic Committee from 1911 to 1918), the Soviet Union was by and large excluded from the Olympic movement. During this time, two world wars took place and Winston Churchill delivered his famous Fulton speech exposing the geopolitical contradictions between the USSR and the West after victory over fascism.
However, in 1950 the Organizing Committee of the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki sent an official invitation to Moscow for participation in the forthcoming Games, and it was accepted.
This event marked a gradual transition in the USSR to the “objective necessity of participating in the international sports movement.” And the only way to do this without dividing the world into Capitalist and Communist blocs was to join the International Olympic Committee.
At the time when NOC USSR was established, its goals and objectives were formally designated in the form of “consent” with the provisions of the Olympic Charter.
On April 23, 1951, a constituent assembly was held in Moscow where the National Olympic Committee of the USSR was founded with Konstantin Andrianov elected as Chairman. On the same day, a telegram was sent to the IOC headquarters stating:
“We inform you that the National Olympic Committee has been formed in the USSR. The National Olympic Committee of the USSR gives consent to the IOC Charter and declares its accession to the International Olympic Committee. We know that an IOC session is due to be held on May 3-6, and we hereby inform that we would like to send our representatives. We kindly ask you to inform us of the session’s agenda by telegraph. We ask to approve our accession to the IOC during the May session and appoint Konstantin Andrianov, Chairman of the National Olympic Committee of the USSR, as a member of the IOC. Address of the National Olympic Committee of the USSR: Moscow, Skatertny pereulok, 4. On behalf of the National Olympic Committee of the USSR, Executive Secretary Sobolev.”
On May 7, 1951, as part of the 46th Session of the IOC, the National Olympic Committee of the USSR was officially recognized by the IOC, and Konstantin Andrianov received the status of an IOC member.
The Soviet team made its debut at the Helsinki Games in the summer of 1952 where they won 71 medals – 22 gold medals, 30 silver medals and 19 bronze medals. Only the Americans won more – 76 medals.
NOC USSR existed for 41 years and participated in 18 Olympic Games and was always the runner-up in the unofficial team standings. However, claiming second place has always been regarded in the country as a failure.
During the late 1980s-early 1990s, the situation in the world was extremely tense: the end of the war in Afghanistan, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, among others. It goes without saying that such instability had a direct effect on our sport, in view of the fact that one of the most powerful world sports powers broke up into several independent states.
On December 1, 1989, a founding congress was held in Moscow where the All-Russian Olympic Committee (AOC) was formed and the main provisions of its activities were adopted, many of which are relevant to this day. The first head of the AOC was the Olympic champion in diving Vladimir Vasin. In March 1992, after the collapse of the USSR, Vitaly Smirnov became the President of the AOC and he held this position up until 2001.
The AOC received its current name — the Russian Olympic Committee — in August 1992, and already in September 1993 the Session of the International Olympic Committee officially recognized the ROC (until then, the ROC had temporary recognition by the IOC).
… Times change, and so do leaders and presidents, while the world and relations between countries constantly become more and more complicated. But the fundamental, basic principles and values remain unchanged.
The true strength of the Olympic movement lies in the universal nature of all Olympic values which determine the direction of activity and the approach to solving a variety of issues and challenges.
At first objectives were promoting the ideals of Olympism in one’s respective country and ensuring participation in the Olympic Games.
As of today, the Russian Olympic Committee is responsible for forming the Olympic team and ensuring its participation in the upcoming Olympic Games, as well as contributing to the preparation of athletes and sports federations for Olympic competitions. The ROC is actively engaged in developing mass sport as part of its Olympic Country programme, educational and scientific-methodological activities, and the Committee also cooperates with sports organizations both within the country and abroad. The Olympic movement has always been and remains a very important channel for sports diplomacy and building bridges between countries and peoples. In this regard, the National Olympic Committee plays a crucial, decisive role.
NOC USSR united 15 republics, while the ROC conducts its activities in one country. But this does not mean that the volume of our work is smaller. Now it is at least comparable to the scale of the Olympic Committee in Soviet times, even surpassing it.
An example is our international activity, which at all times has been one of the key areas of work of any National Olympic Committee.
Today, representatives of the ROC take a proactive approach when working with various IOC commissions and other international sports organizations. IOC President Thomas Bach has invited ROC President Stanislav Pozdnyakov to the IOC Olympic Summit for several years, along with the heads of USOPC and NOC China. It is worth noting that the Olympic Summit welcomes leaders of the most influential sports organizations who gather to discuss the most pressing issues on the Olympic agenda.
Last year, the President of the ROC joined the Executive Committee of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), was elected Chairman of the ANOC Commission on Culture and Education, and at the invitation of the IOC became a member of one of the key IOC Olympic Programme Commissions.
We should also mention that the Director General of the ROC Vladimir Sengleev was included into the TAFISA Board of Directors, the Deputy Secretary General of the ROC Yuri Yuriev was elected as member of the Executive Committee of the European Olympic Committees (EOC), the Deputy Director General of the ROC Rodion Plitukhin received a formal invitation to the IOC’s Sport and Active Society Commission and ROC sports director Andrei Konokotin became a member of the EOC Olympic Games Commission.
The ROC has a regular practice of signing bilateral cooperation agreements with National Olympic Committees of foreign countries. Moreover, special attention is paid not only to the quantity of agreements, but also to their practical implementation.
These are just a few facts indicating that the functions and role of the National Olympic Committee of Russia and its representatives have expanded significantly in recent years. And this trend is set to continue.
Some experts are trying to draw parallels between the current situation surrounding RUSADA and the non-participation of Soviet athletes in the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. That unfortunate event happened under the tenure of Chairman of the Committee for Physical Culture and Sport under the USSR Council of Ministers and Chairman of NOC USSR Marat Gramov.
On April 29, 1984, he sent a note to the Politburo of the CPSU Central Committee justifying the inexpediency of Soviet athletes participating in the 1984 Olympic Games. As a result, a decision was made to boycott the Games by the Soviet Union. Our response to the American boycott of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow turned out to be mirrored, but it did not take into account the interests of our athletes who, due to the will of politicians, lost their main dream in life.
During the 1980s, there were boycotts from countries and groups of countries. Now we are talking about depriving athletes, representing one particular National Olympic Committee, of their legal rights which must be exactly as those for athletes from other countries.
At the same time, there is another factor common for both situations: there is obvious political interference and an attempt to mould Olympism to the interests of political forces within certain countries.
Back then, and now this translates into unfortunate consequences for the Olympic movement. That is why currently the problem of a discriminatory and largely biased attitude of individual international organizations to Russian sport is being discussed at various levels and platforms.
Any conflict that entails restrictions or boycotts is a blow, first of all, to the athletes, their fates and their careers. I wish that we would learn from the past so that logic and common sense could prevail today.