(AFP) – Aug 14, 2008
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Russia should be stripped of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics for sending its troops into neighboring Georgia, two US lawmakers said Thursday in announcing a planned bill to put before Congress.
Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Bill Shuster, both of Pennsylvania, will ask that Congress push the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to pull the Winter Games from Russia and designate a new host city for the event.
"Russia's blatant violation of the long-respected 'Olympic truce' should be enough for the IOC to join with us in choosing a more worthy venue," Shuster said.
"Russia's belligerence against the people of Georgia and their democratically elected government cannot go unpunished."
The planned resolution called for the IOC to "move immediately to designate a new host city for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games."
"The failure of the government of the Russian Federation to respect the sovereignty and territorial borders of its neighbors has rendered the country an unacceptable host for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games."
Schwartz's spokeswoman Rachel Magnuson told AFP that the legislation would not be introduced to the full Congress until the first week of September, when lawmakers return from summer recess.
"They are announcing it today in order to draw attention to it over the next few weeks," she said.
Sochi is located in southern Russia on the Black Sea coast, and is perilously near the separatist Abkhazia region that is part of the military conflict that began over Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia province.
Russian troops and armor rolled into South Ossetia last Friday in response to a Georgian bid to regain control of the renegade region which broke from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
The two countries engaged in five days of bitter fighting until the ceasefire was agreed Tuesday, but new clashes in the Gori region northwest of Tbilisi have underlined the fragility of the agreement.
"It is practically and financially untenable to hold the 2014 Winter Olympic Games less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from a zone of conflict, particularly when the host country has played a significant role in the escalation of that conflict," the US lawmakers' proposal says.
"The International Olympic Committee would not have selected Sochi as the host city for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games if its members had anticipated that the Russian Federation would invade the Republic of Georgia."
US lawmakers have the ability to add punch to their prodding if they so desire by passing legislation that threatens the sponsorship money that flows primarily from US firms to the IOC.
Such moves were threatened when there was controversy over the corruption scandal involving the bid process for the 2002 Winter Olympics that went to Salt Lake City in the United States.
Sochi was selected over rival finalists Salzburg, Austria and Pyoengchang, South Korea. Bids also came from Borjomi, Georgia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Jaca, Spain; and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
While the word boycott was not mentioned in the measure, the overtones should the IOC not comply sparked memories of the 1980 US-led boycott of the Moscow Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
The Soviets followed by staying home for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
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