Moscow, July 27, Interfax - Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia has urged members of the Russian Olympic team "to win with head held up high" without yielding to pressures over the doping scandal.
"Today, we will be praying for you not to make mistakes. And the biggest mistake will be to yield to all this pressure that was put on you. That will be a mistake. So we will be praying to God to give you strength primarily to detach yourselves from these difficult circumstances. To forget about them. To come out of this church being completely different!" the patriarch said prior to a sendoff prayer for the Russian athletes at the Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin.
It is "unprecedented" for "a country or a team to be treated in a way that is different from the approach towards any other team," the patriarch said. This is "quite far from acting fairly," he said.
The patriarch urged athletes to do "what our athletes have never done at any Olympic Games:" "to win with head held up high."
"The more trials [you go through], the more strength [you'll have]. Steel is forged in fire. A country is forged in trials. A people gets stronger when there is something to fight for and against," he said.
On July 24, the International Olympic Committee's Executive Board decided not to ban the entire Russian team from the 2016 Olympics, leaving it with international sports federations to determine who can perform at the Games, provided the Russian athletes have met a number of criteria. The Russian athletes who had doping issues earlier will not be allowed to take part in the Olympics.