Wednesday, May 22, 2024

– Russia only uses sport as a PR tool

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Ukraine believes Vladimir Putin uses sport as propaganda. Photo: Evgenia Novozhenina/Pool Photo via AP/NT

Of NTB | 05/09/2024 10:14:46

Sport: In September, Russia plans to organize the Friendship Games, a huge event that will take place in Moscow and Yekaterinburg after the Paris Olympics. This has led to strong reactions, including from the IOC.

The ambition is to gather around 10,000 participants from 137 countries, almost as many as the 10,500 athletes expected in Paris.

The event is widely seen as Russia’s response to being banned from competing in the upcoming Summer Games as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s acting sports minister Bidnyi sees the Friendly Games as an example of Russia trying to create disorder in sports as well.

– They are just trying to use sport for propaganda, to hide the aggressive war that is being waged behind a facade of sports PR.

The vast majority of Russian and Belarusian athletes do not meet the conditions required for them to compete as neutrals in the Paris Olympics. The friendly games will thus be a chance to compete in a major championship in 2024.

IOC President Thomas Bach has called the event a “cynical attempt to politicize sport”. He has requested nations not to participate.

Ukrainian minister Bidnyi, who replaced Vadym Gutzeit as sports minister last November, believes the announcement of the Friendly Games was the last straw that led the IOC to take a harder line against Russia.

From the Russian side, it has also been claimed that the event is not intended as a competitor to the Olympics.

He claims Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach is in line with the disdain Bidnyi believes he has shown for the IOC and the Olympics.

– Under Putin, Russia has broken the Olympic ceasefire three times, by attacking Georgia in 2008, by invading Crimea in 2014 and by starting a full-scale war against Ukraine in 2022, he says.

– In November 2023, only Russia and Syria did not support the UN resolution on the Olympic ceasefire, adds the minister in the interview with AFP.

However, Bidnyi believes that the Friendly Games will not be the propaganda success that he claims sports enthusiasts Putin wants.

– There will be no alternative to the Olympic Games. That is why most countries, including Brazil, India and China, have refused to participate in these fake Olympic Games, and the IOC has condemned the attempt to hold such a competition, he says.

The war in Ukraine is still raging. It has cost tens of thousands of lives and caused enormous damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure.

Whether Russia will eventually boycott the Paris Olympics is otherwise an open question. The country’s sports minister is against such a move, but the authorities in Moscow have not yet made the final decision.

– After Russia, at the state level, decided to finance the so-called Friendship Games and established the “International Association of Friendship” to organize this event, it was shown to the whole world that they ignore the Olympic principles, he says in an e-mail interview with AFP.

– Right after the Russian decision to organize the so-called Friendly Games, the IOC tightened its demands for neutrality criteria, says Bidnyi.

(© NTB)

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