Roman Kostomarov and Tatiana Navka of Russia during the Ice Dancing Free Skate Program at the 2006 Olympic Games at the Palavela in Torino, Italy on February 20, 2006. (Photo by S. Levin/Getty Images)
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Olympic champion causes controversy with Holocaust skating routine

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MOSCOW (AP) — An Olympic ice-dancing gold medalist and her dancing partner have caused controversy by dressing up in concentration camp uniforms for a routine on a popular television show.

Tatyana Navka, who is the wife of Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and partner Andrey Burkovsky appeared in Saturday’s episode of “Ice Age” dressed in striped uniforms bearing yellow six-pointed stars and heavily made-up to look bruised and frail.

Their routine, which aired on state-owned Channel One, was based on “Life is Beautiful,” the Academy Award-winning Italian movie about a Jewish father who pretends for the sake of his small son that their internment in a Nazi camp is just a game.

Navka’s Instagram account soon was flooded with indignant comments.

Navka, 41, who won gold in ice dancing for Russia at the 2006 Turin Olympics, and Burkovsky, a 33-year-old theater actor, told Russian media that it was their way of paying homage to Holocaust victims.

Their dance sparked outrage in Israel.

“Motifs from the Holocaust are not for parties, not for dance and not for reality (TV),” Israeli Culture Minister Miri Regev told Israeli Army Radio on Sunday.

“Not one of the 6 million danced and a concentration camp is not a summer camp,” Regev added, referring to the number of Jewish dead.

Other people in Israel were not as categorical.

“You have to keep in mind that this is being done on Russian television,” said Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israel office of the Simon Wiesenthal Center who described the performance as “quite kitschy” but added that in the Soviet Union media and officials did not dwell on the Holocaust so any discussion of it Russia should be welcomed.

“So, in that respect, this performance was actually a refreshing change and a different way of looking at the Holocaust. That’s why it had some value.”

Peskov told reporters on Monday that his wife’s dance routine is not something for the Kremlin to comment on, but said: “I’m proud of my wife. This is all I can say.”

While some Russians were indignant at what some saw as mockery of the memory of the dead, others posted messages of support on Navka’s Instagram account, saying that the dance brought tears to their eyes.

The routine was choreographed by 2002 Olympic silver medalist Ilya Averbukh, who is Jewish.

Averbukh, who said in a 2012 interview that he “had problems” in his childhood because of his Jewish name, stood by the Holocaust-themed dance.

“This routine is my idea,” Averbukh, who is also Ice Age’s chief producer, told Komsomolskaya Pravda on Sunday. “I have done a lot of routines on the war and Jewish themes.”

Senior Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin, have honored Holocaust victims and have spoken out against attempts to justify the crimes of Nazis or their allies.

Holocaust-themed routines aren’t new to sports.

In 1996, France’s synchronized swimming team had to scrap its program, which depicted the arrival of Jewish women in death camps and their final march to the gas chambers, following an intervention by the French sports minister. The routine was also based on a movie and set to music from Steven Spielberg‘s “Schindler’s List.”

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IOC president wants life bans for Russian cheats

DOHA, QATAR - NOVEMBER 16: IOC President Thomas Bach closing remarks during the fourth day of the 21st ANOC General Assembly at the Sheraton Grand Hotel on November 16, 2016 in Doha, Qatar. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images for ANOC)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Russian athletes and officials who are proven to have been part of a doping “manipulation system” should be banned for life from the Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday.

Bach gave his personal view one day before Canadian investigator Richard McLaren publishes a final report into alleged state-backed cheating at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Proof of systematic doping would be “aggravated circumstances” to justify life bans, the IOC leader said at a news conference after a three-day executive board meeting.

“I would not like to see this person again at any Olympic Games in any function,” Bach said, noting that as an IOC disciplinary commission chairman he approved life bans for Austrian team members implicated in doping at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.

However, proving that individual athletes knew of systematic doping involving state agencies could be difficult.

McLaren, who was appointed by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May, is expected to give more detail about cheating operations at the Sochi laboratory.

In his interim report in July, McLaren confirmed claims by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov of a hole-in-the-wall swapping system aided by the FSB security agency to exchange athletes’ dirty urine samples for clean ones.

Earlier Thursday, the IOC member appointed to oversee disciplinary cases that arise from McLaren’s evidence acknowledged they could be tough to prove.

“Can you prove (athletes) were aware?” Denis Oswald, a Swiss lawyer, said on the sidelines of a sports law conference in Geneva.

“It is not that we would be scared to attack high level people in the Russian regime,” the Swiss lawyer said. “The question is more on the legal point of view. Can you punish athletes if they have done nothing and whether they were not aware of what was happening?”

Bach has also appointed a second IOC commission, headed by former Switzerland president Samuel Schmid, to evaluate if McLaren’s report and evidence proves a state-run doping system.

“And then based on that we will see if we can start cases against athletes,” Oswald said.

Meanwhile, United States lawmakers want Bach to attend a congressional committee hearing next Thursday to provide an update on sports’ fight against doping.

“Unfortunately I cannot attend there,” said Bach, adding that the IOC will “provide by other means all the information they may need.”

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IOC president doesn’t rule out awarding 2028 Olympic host in 2017

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 23: The Olympic Flag waves as part of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Closing Ceremony at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)
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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — IOC President Thomas Bach says he wants to change the Olympic host city bidding procedure because it “produces too many losers.”

Bach’s comments came on the same day the IOC executive board cleared all three candidate cities for the 2024 Olympics — Paris, Los Angeles and Budapest, Hungary — to advance to the next stage of the race.

Bach did not categorically rule out the possibility of awarding the hosting rights for two games at once — 2024 and 2028 — when the IOC votes next September in Lima, Peru.

Bach said at a news conference “it is not the purpose of an Olympic candidature procedure to produce losers.”

He said the goal is “to produce the best possible host for an Olympic Games.”

Asked about speculation the IOC could award the 2024 and 2028 Olympics at the same time, he said: “Let us study this question, which is not an easy one.”

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