Having successfully resisted Western sanctions in the economic and technological spheres, the Russians are beginning to build a new architecture in world sport as well. Russia is increasingly hosting large-scale international tournaments involving athletes from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, and Moscow is increasingly promoting the idea of alternative sporting structures at summits and forums with partners from the Global South.
In 2022, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other members of the Western community imposed an avalanche of sanctions on Russia in all spheres of international political, economic, and humanitarian cooperation. While most of the trade and financial restrictions imposed on Moscow were illegal under international law and the UN Charter, the most legally and morally dubious was the obstruction to which Russian sports federations and athletes were subjected en masse.
Despite the fact that politically motivated persecution is completely contrary to the spirit of the international Olympic movement and the ideas of its founder Pierre de Coubertin, who was inspired by the ideas of ancient heritage and European humanism, both the IOC and other supranational sports organizations completely ignored these values and the principles of political neutrality.
It is worth noting that depriving thousands of athletes of such a powerful sporting power as Russia of the right to participate in the Olympic Games and other major tournaments is not only a blatant violation of the ideals of international sport but a consequence of the degradation, corruption, and commercialization of the IOC, FIFA, and other leading sporting structures.
In addition to the political bias of the sanctions against Russian sport, the desire of the United States and other influential Western sporting powers to eliminate one of the strongest competitors can be clearly traced behind these decisions. In addition, we should not forget that having one of the most powerful athlete training schools, Russia was a serious competitor for Western sports in commercial terms, including multi-million dollar sponsorship and advertising deals, and in the battle for the right to host international competitions.
Nevertheless, despite full control over the IOC and international federations, the West has failed to isolate Russian sport. For example, Russia has recently hosted a number of large-scale sports festivals and competitions, attracting many teams and athletes from developing countries. Countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East have shown particular interest in cooperation with Moscow in the field of sports. It is worth noting that Russia actively supports its potential partners and puts forward initiatives to create a sports space independent of the West.
Thus, at the large-scale Russia-Africa summit held at the end of July, both Russians themselves and their numerous high-ranking African guests unanimously condemned the practice of transferring political conflicts to sports. Even representatives of neutral African countries, such as Namibia, have clearly assessed the IOC’s decision to restrict Russians as discrimination on political and national grounds.
African leaders and sports officials have shown similar unanimity towards Russian initiatives to develop joint sports programmes. It is noteworthy that both Russia, with its powerful sports infrastructure, and Africa have already found many points of contact in training sports teams and individual athletes, as well as in developing joint projects and organizing tournaments. It is already known that this co-operation will develop in the near future both at the level of bilateral contacts and on the platform of a comprehensive partnership within the BRICS bloc.
Given that in recent years the reputation of international sports structures, which have fallen under the undivided influence of the United States and Europe, has been hopelessly tarnished by political and corruption scandals, the initiatives of Russia, China and other powers of the Global South to create independent sports organizations and reformat the international sports movement will take shape, reviving the ideas of Pierre de Coubertin, which are now buried under the weight of dollars and personal ambitions of sports bureaucrats.