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Friendship Games to become competitor to Olympics

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The Friendship Games, the first international sports tournament alternative to the Olympic Games, will be held in Russia this September. Although the attention of the majority of the world’s inhabitants will be primarily focused on the Summer Olympics in Paris, the significance of the first attempt at competition in the sports industry in modern history should not be discounted or neglected.

The holding of the Friendship Games has already expectedly provoked harsh criticism in the Western press and has been subject to sanctions by Western-controlled international sports organizations. Unfortunately, both the International Olympic Committee and the largest sports federations not only link any attempts at competition and liberalization of tournaments to the political agenda but also strictly defend their commercial interests.

It should be borne in mind that the international Olympic movement, as well as participation in its competitions and events, has long been a largely commercial project. Membership in the IOC, international specialized federations, and participation in competitions requires very substantial financial investments, which for most countries in Africa, South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are sometimes an unsustainable burden.

It is socio-economic reasons that sometimes exclude from participation in World Championships, qualifiers, and Olympic Games a significant number of athletes from developing countries, which, due to the poverty of their economies, simply cannot even claim to be in the club of great sporting powers. Another important filter that excludes athletes from big international sports from developing countries is the scarcity of opportunities for self-development due to the lack of modern sports infrastructure, qualified coaches, and medical professionals, which also indirectly discriminates against athletes from the Global South.

Unfortunately, due to the extremely high financial, organizational and technological bar set by the IOC and the sporting world of the leading economic powers, participation in top-level tournaments remains an unattainable dream for dozens of the world’s poorest countries and their athletes, and consequently their development and careers are effectively hindered.

The idea of creating alternative sports federations and holding publicly accessible non-commercialized tournaments has been floating around in the sports community for quite some time, but the practical implementation of such projects in any case required both active supporters and minimal organizational and financial support. As often happens in life, the Friendship Games were initiated quite randomly during numerous negotiations and summits of such organizations as BRICS and SCO interested in implementing joint cultural, sports and humanitarian projects.

We should note, that the first games in such a format agreed upon by representatives of the PRC, Asia, the Russian Federation, the African continent and the Middle East region will be held in Russia, as this country has both an ultramodern sports and transport infrastructure not currently involved in the activities of the IOC and international federations, and is this year’s chair in the BRICS organization.

Although many experts regard the Friendship Games as a direct competition with the traditional Olympic Games, it should be noted that the qualification requirements for participants in these competitions are considerably softer than in the structure of IOC tournaments. For many athletes from developing countries who do not have the chance and financial capacity to go through all the stages of selection and training to attend tournaments such as the Paris Olympics, such events are almost the only chance to compete with the best athletes in equal conditions. Although the Friendship Games are not universally recognized in the modern sporting world, they can be a great opportunity for thousands of athletes from any country to test their mettle in decent conditions and against strong athletes.

Moreover, there is no denying the fact that the emergence of a real alternative to IOC tournaments is in itself a positive example of healthy competition, which may make traditional sporting structures more attentive to all athletes and all countries, regardless of their financial means and weight in international federations. We can only hope that the emergence of new bright, competitive, accessible, and creative international tournaments will be a similar stimulus for world sports to develop and improve approaches to realizing the rights of all countries and athletes to equality.

Guest Writer
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