Lifetime sports award confiscated

  • 2001-03-01
  • Devyani Banerjee
TALLINN - Under pressure from President Lennart Meri and politicians from the ruling Pro Patria Union, the Estonian government on Feb. 21 revoked its earlier decision to confer a sporting Lifetime Achievement Award to Arnold Green.

Green, who is in his 80s and has spent his life promoting sports, will however receive the 200,000 kroon ($11,700) prize money for his contributions to reviving the Olympic movement and for boosting the popularity of sports in the country.

The government has reversed its decision to reward Green, because it feels it cannot confer the award on someone who worked as an instructor for the committee of the Estonian Young Communist League in the region of Virumma in 1940.

Green was also a commissar in the Soviet army in 1941-1947 and editor of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic's newspaper Rahva Haal between 1950 and 1953. He then served as Soviet Estonia's minister of education (1958-1960) and minister of foreign affairs (1962 onwards).

The president's office told the media, "Green's career is nothing that deserves recognition by the Republic of Estonia."

When Green was asked to comment on the incident he said stoically, "I have nothing to say. No comment." When pressed he said, "I have never done anything wrong in my life. I am a brave man and such childish things do not affect me very much."

He continued, "All sportsmen are behind me and that keeps my spirits high." When asked whether he would accept the government's prize money, he replied, "Yes of course," and added that he has not yet decided what to do with it.

The government's press office director, Kaarel Garant, said, "Actually the government did not change the decision to give Green the award. It only changed the formulation of that decision."

He added: "The government found that the record of Green's life is not clean enough to be rewarded. His actions during Estonia's pre-independence years cannot be interpreted as being useful to Estonia."

He recalled that Green had on occasion backed the Soviet occupation. "During the 17th General Assembly of the U.N., Green, while answering a British representative, defended the occupation of the Baltic states by Soviet Russia."

But Garant agreed that after independence in 1991 Green had done a lot to restore the Olympic movement in Estonia. In a press release on Feb. 21, the Estonian Olympic Committee, the Estonian Central Sports Union and the Estonian Ski Association disagreed with the government's decision. "We still consider Arnold Green as the best candidate for a state award for a life in sports."