‘Nobody has called me, nobody has cancelled anything.’ Will Kazan keep big sports competitions during WADA’s ban?

Kazan Kremlin, Ministry of Sport of Tatarstan and State Duma believe that scheduled competitions in the city will take place

All Russia that is linked with sport has focused on one topic in recent days — the verdict of the World Anti-Doping Agency that recommended divesting our country of the right to host big competitions because of manipulations with athletes’ base of doping tests. Experts’ forecasts about the meaning of WADA’s decision for the Russian sports system appear in the mass media with amazing regularity, but there is no clarity yet. Meanwhile, Kazan, in fact, is becoming one of the sticking points in this situation: “the sports capital of Russia” was to host a number of big international competitions in the next four years. Realnoe Vremya found out if top tournaments would remain in the Tatarstan capital and asked Minister of Sport of Tatarstan Vladimir Leonov and the Russian State Duma’s deputy Irek Zinnurov about it.

Kazan Kremlin doesn’t plan to lose two big aquatic competitions

During the four years of the ban imposed on Russia by WADA, Kazan is to host at least two international aquatic competitions: the 2021 European Short-Course Swimming Championships and the 2024 European Aquatics Championships.

It was carefully claimed in the Kazan Kremlin on 12 December that the officials of Tatarstan were positive and didn’t plan to refuse any of the competitions:

“The federal ministry has all the power when it comes to lodging an appeal and further work on WADA’s decisions,” representatives of the Kazan Kremlin Liliya Galimova claimed. “We, in turn, can say that we have good business and even friendly relationships with many international sports federations, particularly FINA with which we agreed to host another two competitions. We don’t stop the work, we continue the preparation and hope that in this respect everything will be fine and the championships will take place. <…> In any case, we don’t support the version that everything is over and we won’t have any international competitions because of WADA. We keep working. While our applications for hosting international competitions had been backed up by the absolute majority of decision-makers.”

The date when Kazan was chosen as the host of these competitions prove Galimova’s assumption — it happened in Glasgow on 7 December this year, just two days to the announcement of the decision by WADA’s commission. The bureau of the European Swimming League (LEN) unlikely wasn’t informed that Russia could be highly likely banned. Of course, it was. Nevertheless, it decided not to pay attention to quite possible negative recommendations of WADA.

Kazan has already hosted a series of important competitions in different aquatic sports, including the world championships in 2015 and the European junior championships this year, which were perfect. Kazan has all the possibilities for hosting world-class competitions as well as an experienced organising team, LEN’s statement read after the decision was announced on 7 December.

Vladimir Leonov: “Nobody has called me, nobody has cancelled anything. We are preparing for the European championships as usual”

Minister of Sport of the Republic of Tatarstan Vladimir Leonov who is famous for his special love for aquatic sports (FINA and Kazan became close partners if not friends under him) assured the commission in Glasgow that it would the best competitions the European Swimming League had ever hosted and that “Kazan became a second home to everybody connected with aquatic sports in Russia a long time ago”.

“Kazan has a big experience in hosting big sports competitions, including in aquatic sports. All our venues are ready. We’ve recently renovated the Athletes’ Village, which we plan to use to accommodate the participants at these European championships as well,” Leonov noted.

Realnoe Vremya reached out to the minister to learn the position of his ministry on these competitions now after WADA’s recommendations were published.

“Liliya [Galimova] gave a comment, I won’t belabour the point, it is the position we agreed on. Moreover, all these sanctions don’t apply to European championships, world cups and so on. We aren’t concerned at all,” Leonov said. “It is too early to talk about cancellation, you know. It is so far a standpoint. I don’t have any incoming calls, nobody has called me, nobody has cancelled anything. We meet all our obligations in the contract, so we don’t see any problems. The ministry is preparing as usual, all is as it was promised.”

Irek Zinnurov: “The ban is on the Olympic Games and World Cups only”

Deputy of the State Duma, President of Sintez water sports club from Kazan and former water polo player Irek Zinnurov is also optimistic. Commenting on the situation for Realnoe Vremya, he urged to wait for CAS’s decision:

It is necessary to prepare for these competitions because nothing is clear yet. It is European championships, and from what I’ve so far heard in all translations I can understand that the ban is on the Olympic Games and World Cups only. I think the European Aquatics Associations will make the final decision if it will hold the competitions here or not. We should prepare for them anyway.

In addition, we have 21 days to appeal the decision [of WADA] that was announced. And all our executives said that such an appeal would be lodged. This is why we also should wait for such a decision because we can “get” something.

How do you evaluate the chances of “getting” something?

To tell the truth, I thought there wouldn’t be such a cruel decision on Russia. I thought something would be postponed, something would be decided. I didn’t think that all recommendations [of WADA’s group of experts] would immediately be accepted.”

There's always a chance. Perhaps it will be possible to win some moments like it was before the previous Olympics because earlier we won some clauses in court.

Can the FINA president who has excellent relationships with Tatarstan and Kazan help when the final decision is made?

Julio Maglione has a very good attitude to Kazan and Russia, he has repeatedly said about it. For instance, in his speech at the last forum Russia is Sports Power. This is why he will vote for us at the necessary moment.

What sports competitions are under threat for Kazan?

The 2025 FINA World Championships that Kazan got the right to host this summer isn’t banned by WADA, of course. But it seems that it won’t be possible to make the Tatarstan Ministry of Sport’s plan for switching the years with Qatar (the host of the 2023 championships) a reality.

Apart from the aquatic competitions, there is a chance that the capital of Tatarstan as well as another nine Russian cities (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Kaliningrad, Ufa, Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo and Krasnoyarsk) might lose several matches of the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Men's World Championship. However, it is possible that the International Volleyball Federation will ignore WADA’s decision and leave the world championship in Russia — the FIVB and our country have amazing relationships. But Russian volleyball players will anyway have to compete without the flag and anthem.

In addition, Kazan submitted an application to host the 2023 UEFA Super Cup. And this event could be the biggest among all the above-mentioned. The UEFA Super Cup is a battle held by clubs that won Champions League and European League before the beginning of the European season. For instance, this year Liverpool and Chelsea played for this trophy in Istanbul.

The chances of getting this event have reduced, but still, there are some. WADA has already claimed that the sanctions of the anti-doping organisation don’t affect the Euro in 2020, as this tournament is held under the aegis of the “regional organisation” — UEFA. So the application for the Super Cup, which is also held under the aegis of the same UEFA, is in force.

By Erik Dobrolyubov

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