I’m not sure about the opinion of the citizens on the government’s attitude officially communicated to our athletes by the minister of sport Vanja Udovicic. He said that the recommendation of the government and all sports associations is that Serbian athletes should leave the podium if participants from Kosovo are on it. After he realized that the government’s recommendation is illogical, controversial, and cruel to the athletes, who are expected to give up acknowledgment of their talents and years of practice for some stupid state reason, the minister said that the final decision is still up to the contestants. However, after saying that each individual should decide whether to leave the podium, Udovicic added that “on the other hand, we can’t acknowledge Kosovo through sports results”. We haven’t heard this one before: that countries are acknowledged through sports results.
As I understand the Olympic Games, they are not only a competition of individuals and teams, but also of countries. I think that this goes without saying. Each country is trying to go home with as many medals as possible, so the question is why Serbia should punish itself by demanding from individuals (and teams) to give up their medals by leaving the podium due to the presence of Kosovars. According to the government’s decision and minister Udovicic, merely standing on the podium next to a Kosovo Albanian and listening to the hymn of Kosovo could imply acknowledgment of Kosovo. This sounds really absurd. The procedure of acknowledging a country is clear; it can only be done by a relevant state authority by following prescribed rules, and not by athletes, singers, ballerinas, actors, bankers or any others who don’t hold the relevant authority. The minister seemed almost grotesque when he said on TV Pink:
“What if our athlete finds himself on the podium and leaves the podium, everyone will ask why he did it, why did the government issue this recommendation to sports organizations and associations. If he stays, does it mean that he acknowledges the independence of the so-called state of Kosovo? The issue is very complex. This is only a recommendation, the decision is up to an athlete. Honestly, I don’t know.” The confusing minister went on to say that we can’t listen to the hymn and watch the flag (of Kosovo), so, as a responsible government, we issued a recommendation to our athletes as for their behavior in such a situation, but he said that they also agreed on the following – let’s allow our athletes to compete first, because we don’t want to endanger their opportunities to win medals.
What is the purpose of these attempts to confuse and humiliate our athletes? They are expected to fight for the medals and then, if they win it and, by chance, stand next to some athlete from Kosovo, they should take it upon themselves to defend Kosovo as a part of Serbia, i.e. to walk down from the podium in order to make clear that they don’t acknowledge the independence of Kosovo! And there’s our punishment: Serbia loses a medal and Kosovo celebrates. The government’s instruction means fewer medals for Serbia, but also fails to demonstrate how it would defend Kosovo. Is such a “patriotic” recommendation even meaningful? Is it even likely for our medals and defense of Kosovo to “clash” at some sport? This can easily be determined and the minister could have done it, instead of embarrassing himself as an athlete and a state official.
This government doesn’t miss an opportunity to play its citizens for fools. Vucic and Dacic already acknowledged Kosovo by signing the Brussels agreement and establishing the border between the two countries (among many other things), but athletes are still expected to defend Kosovo by leaving the podium and giving up their hard earned medals. This stupid and meaningless act of an athlete couldn’t possibly defend Kosovo, but could defend each of them from being called a traitor. Although the minister said that the decision is up to each athlete, God help him if he decides to “acknowledge” Kosovo and keep his medal.
Important “complex issues” regarding the defense of Kosovo which the government faces daily in the same manner in all situations, including the Olympic Games, remain to be discussed. Those issues pertain to its hypocrisy and turpitude. Due to personal interests and pure caprice of Aleksandar Vucic, it refused to defend the citizens and the city of Belgrade from the illegal demolition of Savamala, but managed to reach a consensus on the fact that the athletes are expected to defend the state and Kosovo on the Olympics. Another, even more complex issue, is how much longer the citizens will tolerate a government which inflicts enormous damages, impoverishes and destroys all institutions, while cynically playing them for fools. And that’s the million dollar question.
Translated by Marijana Simic
Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).