TOKYO (AP) — For all the International Olympic Committee talks of staying neutral, its games have long proven to be essentially and sometimes overtly political — for the Games overall, and often for the athletes who are intended to entertain the world in a two-week global show.
Case in point: diplomatic eruptions. Hundreds of athletes have come to an Olympic Games and never returned to the home nation they represented in the pool, on the mat or on the track. Their stories since 1948, when the Olympics resumed in London after a wartime pause, confirm that when the world meets for sports, politics is always there.
The sprinter from Belarus, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who left Tokyo early Wednesday to seek refuge, fits into that long tradition — yet with a unique reason.
Most athletes who defected competed under a kind of flag of convenience – traveling to the Summer Games from eastern Europe with a plan to head west. The Olympics offered escape from…