Solidarity Games or outcasts’ competition?

The first stage of the simulacrum of the current international season

Swimmers passed the baton to divers after the first stage of 2022 Solidarity Games international aquatic competitions. Realnoe Vremya’s journalist Jaudat Abdullin shares his impressions of the competition with references to historical analogues.

What about swimmers?

The Solidarity Games 2022 are the only competition only for “water” athletes excluding water polo, open water swimming and high diving, sorry for tautology. Here it is necessary to thank the Russian and Tatarstan Ministry of Sport, the Directorate for Sports Projects for trying to compensate our swimmers, divers and synchronised swimmers for the loss of two key international competitions of the season — the world and European championships.

Yes, the Solidarity Games look a very local project at the moment where Russia reigns supreme and Belarus contends a bit. As Realnoe Vremya assumed in the preview of this competition, Belarus sent its strongest swimmers to the tournament, and Alina Zmushka, Ilya Shymanovich, Anastasiya Shkurdai and Co looked very decently. Is this little? Let me say that the Americans are very proud of their first Olympics in Saint Louise in 1904, which can be easily called the US championship because almost nobody went there. But the results are presented as the total superiority of American athletes over the whole world.

However, for Tatarstan the swimming results would look sad if the republican federation of this sport didn’t have a plan B and sign contracts with a number of swimmers from other regions.

It is good the money of the new composition of the swimming federation allow this. Plus, there is a trump card such as the Volga sports university. In the absence of leaders Alexander Krasnykh, Veronika Andrusenko or Grigory Tarasevich, who didn’t manage to come from America to participate in the Kazan competition, we could rely on recent “foreign” athletes, and they didn’t fail. Nikolay Zuyev won the 200 m backstroke, was third in the 100 m heat too. Valeria Salamatina was second in the 200 m and third in the 400 m freestyle. Daria Ustinova was second in the 200 m backstroke. Ustinova and Salamatina from Yekaterinburg, Zuyev from Syktyvkar as well as mentioned Tarasevich from Omsk.

Talking about local pupils, Renata Gaynullina who finished after Ustinova in the 200 m backstroke and juniors made us happy. Ralina Gilyazova won the 50 m breaststroke, while 14-year-old Sofia Dyakova from Kazan became the hero. She participated in the victorious 4x200 m freestyle relay as well as got gold in the 400 m among juniors, a bronze in the 1,500 m among seniors.

It is interesting that she is from Yekaterinburg like Daria Ustinova who moved to Kazan can confuse fans because Dyakova has an girl the same age, with the same last name and almost namesake from Moscow — but she is Sofia Dyakova. Also, they can be differentiated with the first letter of their patronymic — Sofia Ch. Dyakova from Kazan, Sofia S. Dyakova from Moscow. When it comes to accomplishments, our athlete is much more successful.

The downed South Korean plane didn’t impede them from coming to the Solidarity Games

“I am proud that Russia can organise such competitions as the Solidarity Games...” “The organisation of the Solidarity Games is simply amazing...” “Yevgenia Chikunova outperformed the US athlete at the WC...”

Releases after the competition in Kazan were rife with such headlines, and this bravura makes one tired a bit because everything happening “right now” is very similar like two Ustinovas and Dyakovas to what happened almost 40 years ago or, more precisely, the Friendship 1984. Even the political situation is almost similar. Then, 40 year ago, Soviet troops unexpectedly did Friendship 1983 drills where the armies of the USSR and members of the Warsaw Agreement improved their skills. Moreover, earlier “Western partners” were usually notified about such exercise. And sports Friendship Games took place a year later, now the Solidarity Games preceded the start of the special military operation in Ukraine.

The headlines were similar then, about another country, the USSR, other heroes. For instance, today’s President of the Russian Swimming Federation Vladimir Salnikov. And other countries among the competitors.

As a result it turned out that Israel, Paraguay, Turkey, Uruguay, Chile, South Korea and quite unexpectedly Indonesia, Egypt and Tunisia were among those countries that boycotted the 1980 Games in Moscow and didn’t compete in the Friendship Games in 1984. In Indonesia we remembered as host of the Anti-Imperialist Olympics had a coup when pro-Westerner Sukarto came into office instead of pro-communist President Sukarno. Anvat Sadat ruled in Egypt who came closer with the USA and Israel by the end of his rule and this is why he was shot in 1981 in his homeland. However, his successor Hosni Mubarak didn’t rush to improve relations with the Soviet Union either. As for Tunisia, everything is unclear enough, given the fact that Soviet specialists worked in the country, particularly Soviet coach Viktor Tyurin chaired the men’s water polo team.

Enumerating those countries that sent their athletes to the 1984 Friendship Games having boycotted the Olympics in Moscow earlier, it is necessary to note the impressive absence of principles of Canada, the USA, Japan. They boycotted the Olympics in Moscow only because of the fact of the appearance of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. As for the Friendship, a year to the competition, a passenger plane flying from South Korea was downed in the airspace of the USSR. Among others, there were 62 Americans including Congressman Lawrence McDonald, 28 Japanese citizens, 8 Canadians were on board, which caused a new burst of hatred to the Soviet Union. Here a parallel can be drawn with today when Russia is presented the Evil Empire 2.0 for the EU members and athletes are fleeing from here. Except for American basketball players as well as Canadian hockey players who are a lion’s share of foreigners in these sports.

History lessons

In 1984, according to Sport Minister Marat Gramov, Soviet athletes didn’t go to the Olympics in Los Angeles. Almost all countries of the Warsaw bloc joined the boycott besides Romania. The organisation of the 1984 Friendship Games cost huge cash injections, which weren’t quite justified because no Soviet athletes hurried up to be proud of these victories and even thank for the awards, which were equal to Olympic ones. We organised the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 together with the USA. Again, the costs weren’t justified.

“The Goodwill Games aren’t small and big Olympic Games. It is Goodwill Games,” same Marat Gramov commented. “We don’t pursue any commercial goals. Our costs significantly surpass possible incomes. We are responsible for providing all athletes, referees, guests with good, accommodation, transport, carry costs on holding the competitions and renting sports venues. Many competitors’ travel expenses will be paid. We assume that the Goodwill Games will make an important contribution to spreading the philosophy of the Olympic movement.”

Is this unprofessionalism or crime? What didn’t we think about the “philosophy of the Olympic movement”, which would have cost the public treasury much cheaper? By that time, the Soviet Union was back to the coupon system by annually increasing the list of deficient products, which in the end coincided with the list of essentials. By the way, the story repeated 12 years later when Moscow host the 1st World Youth Games in 1998 (the last), a month to the tragically renowned August default. History has taught nothing...

(To be continued)

Jaudat Abdullin

The author’s opinion does not necessarily coincide with the position of Realnoe Vremya’s editorial board.