Bach and Margaritis support the politicisation of sport. GETTY IMAGES

The President of the IOC and the Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for promoting the European way of life, fall into a trap when they are recorded talking to a supposed African leader. Both leaders end up praying to non-existent gods to make it happen with the to persuade the African Union not to take part in the Friendship Games.

Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President and Head of the European Commission's Unit for Promoting the European Way of Life, have made unprecedented statements in a 27-minute video prak. 

A fake African leader as representative of the African Union spoke to them via a pre-arranged video call, during which both Bach and Schinas persuaded him to convince African athletes not to take part in the competition in Russia. Thomas Bach has been involved in a prank video before and, strangely, was caught again. 

It was the African leader who turned out to be the prankster, whom the two leaders tried to persuade not to join the Friendship Games. Towards the end of the 30-minute recording, Bach and Schinas accept the challenge of praying to some invented gods to help them make the "right decision". Little do they know that it is all a joke.

Russian pranksters Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stolyarov, known as Vovan and Lexus, extracted confessions and unprecedented comments from Bach and Schinas about the "politicisation of sport, because this is the moment when it's pure political propaganda to show what's being planned". Bach and Schinas accepted the interview with the aim of campaigning against the Friendship Games

During the recording, which was streamed online on Wednesday night, both  are asked about their views on the Friendship Games and the IOC's stance on them, as well as whether some European athletes have asked to take part in the Friendship Games, or even the possibility of Russian athletes competing in the Olympics under the Ukrainian flag. "They could end up in prison for fifteen years. Or they could be sent to Siberia," said Bach. 

Margaritis Schinas also commented on the Friendship Games: "After our meeting today, I would like to make a statement in support of the IOC statement. So my idea would be... I can read you the two paragraphs, if you agree. Russia's so-called Friendship Games are being organised against the backdrop of Russia's unabated war of aggression against Ukraine, its peaceful neighbour."

"Russia is misusing sport and its peaceful values to legitimise an illegal and unjustified war. We support the IOC's position, expose the political motivation behind this initiative and call on National Olympic Committees not to participate. The unity of the Olympic Movement around its core values remains the key to overcoming these challenges," he continued.

Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission GETTY IMAGES
Margaritis Schinas, Vice-President of the European Commission GETTY IMAGES

Thomas Bach urged the supposed African leader to request not only to the NOCs but also to the African governments to persuade them not to take part in the Friendship Games: "If you appeal to the National Olympic Committees, it's even more important to appeal to the governments, because Russia, as we say in our statement, is not appealing to the National Olympic Committees. That's why it would be extremely important to say that you are calling on the NOCs and on the governments."

Bach and Schinas were asked whether their statements during the recording could be published, and they suggested that it should not be. The recording takes place with Bach and Schinas in their respective offices, while the pranksters are in a somewhat picturesque setting with a skeleton appearing at the end as decoration.

The supposed African leader also asks about the existence of Russians on the IOC Executive Board: "I've heard that there are some Russian representatives, including, if I'm not mistaken, Isinbayeva (Yelena, the pole-vaulter) or others. So what about her? Has she tried to defend the Russian government?"

"No, there is no Russian member of the Executive Board. If you mention Isinbayeva's name, she has been living outside the country for almost two years. And anyway, the same rules apply to IOC members as to athletes. You know what we have explained. If someone supports the war, they're out," Bach pointed out.

In the recording, Bach can be heard saying that "Russian athletes would not be admitted". The President goes on to explain the attitude of Russia and Belarus to the Olympic ban. "You can also see that the Belarusian side has a very different attitude to this situation. The Russian side is now very aggressive towards the IOC".

Bach on the back of Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva. GETTY IMAGES
Bach on the back of Russian IOC member Yelena Isinbayeva. GETTY IMAGES

During the prank, reference is made to French President Emmanuel Macron's words about sending troops to Ukraine to fight against Russia. Schinas was asked if this would increase the pressure in the conflict. "Can I ask Vice-President Schinas if he thinks this will lead to a new phase of escalation?" "I'm not in the Elysée Palace. I'm here in the Berlin Mall. Our building is much more boring. No wine, no carpets. I don't know. I can tell you what I know, but I can't tell you what I don't know," he replied.

"What I can tell you, Mr President, is that this is a moment where nothing is innocent, a moment of truth for Ukraine and Russia. It is also clear that this is a major instrumentalisation operation. If there is one message that you should probably convey to your colleagues as they consider this invitation, it is that this is not just another sports organisation. This is the Olympics. I mean, say they can choose to be in both, but it's not the same to be in both. This is a moment of truth. You know, we are counting," he said. 

Bach also weighed in on the matter: "I think it would be important for the African governments to know is the reasons given by Vice President Shinas. To know that by participating in the Friendship Games these countries and these governments are taking sides in the Russian-Ukrainian war and they are taking sides with Russia. They are taking part in a manifestation of support for Russia's war in Ukraine and its violation of Ukraine's territorial integrity. That's the difference."

Thomas Bach seems too easy to prank. GETTY IMAGES
Thomas Bach seems too easy to prank. GETTY IMAGES

"Those who follow the rules will come. They won't be deprived of anything. It is the Russian government that will be deprived," stated Bach. "And what happens next? Maybe we could give them a special badge. The jokers again referred to a hypothetical situation for those athletes who will not be able to compete under the Russian flag. You know what would be a good decision? If they didn't use a neutral flag, but the flag of Ukraine, to show their support for their nation," the IOC President added. 

Schinas was next asked about the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes in Paris 2024. "I know that there are many people who left Russia reluctantly when the invasion began, so there are many people who do not support Russia's foreign policy. And these people could come to the Olympics. What do you think, Mr Vice-President?" "Exactly. We are open," replied the Greek.

The video-call of almost 27 minutes went ahead with Schinas Margaritis: "The purpose of this meeting isn't to reopen the question of the participation of individual athletes. This is something taken. I told President Bach that the conditions, that ring fence participation is okay, but that's not the purpose, but the second question is... I will do what suits you. Do you want this statement to be linked to this conversation? Or do you prefer it sourced by me? This is not a politically innocent decision. That's why I'm asking, especially to our African friends."

After a final round of questions, the supposed African leader is given an agreement from both sides not to publish the conversation and to continue to work together to ensure that "the Friendship Games are not celebrated" and to pray to some invented "gods" to make it so.