Second leg of Solidarity Games needs to improve qualitatively and quantitatively

The first mixed international competition isn’t impressive yet

The first part of the Solidarity Games in Kazan is too bombastic resembling the competition between Ellochka the Cannibal with millionaire Vanderbilt from The Twelve Chairs. But this competition can prove their significance till the end of the year, thinks journalist of Realnoe Vremya’s sports staff Jaudat Abdullin.

The hectic calendar spoilt swimming

Not the organisation shapes the level of any competition. It is also crucial: the IIHF World Junior Championship postponed from January 2022 because of its awful organisation in Canada, but this is an isolated case.

Globally, the quality and then the quantity of participants both athletes and countries determine the level of competitions. Only Russia and Belarus were responsible for the high swimming performance at the Solidarity Games in Kazan, while others were youth and junior teams. And this isn’t the demonstration of disrespect but a forced measure. The Commonwealth Games kicked off in English Birmingham on 28 July. It is the competition that wasn’t paid much attention in Russia earlier because it is out of our expertise. Meanwhile, it is 68 countries. Birmingham won the right to host this competition against South African Durban. Now one should keep an eye on team RSA at the British Commonwealth Games, for some reason it seems that the same team that performed at the World Championship in Budapest will be there. And what team RSA we could hope for at the Solidarity Games in Kazan.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally participated in a teleconference about the preparation for the British Commonwealth Games. What other evidence of their importance is needed? Even the composition of the English team is intriguing — the first team will go: to Birmingham or the European Championship in Rome, which will start on 11 August. On the other hand, the Islamiade became a strong opponent of the Solidarity Games. All five former USSR republics in Central Asia — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are among the competitors. Azerbaijan is not only a competitor but also the organiser of the tournament in 2017, two years after the first European Games in Baku in 2015. Azerbaijan and Turkey, the organiser of this year’s Islamiade are among more than 50 countries representing Europe, while Asia with its Gulf countries, Northern Africa — Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Togo — is the foundation.

Blessing in disguise...

Sadly, the second part of the Solidarity Games with the code name World didn’t have strong athletes. Precisely the quality of competitors and then their quantity are determining in the status of competition. The organisation level is only third.

Sadly, but the World continues failing when it comes to the level of competitors. Armenia, Venezuela, Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Ecuador came for the diving competition. Moreover, China isn’t here, it could arouse the interest in the event many times, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea isn’t here either. Moreover, in 2022 China was going to host the Universiade in Chengdu (from 28 July to 8 August), then the Summer Asian Games (from 10 to 25 September), but the competitions were either cancelled or postponed. In other words, Asian athletes aren’t involved in big international competitions now except for Malaysia, which is competitive in diving and its athletes will be at the British Commonwealth Games. If China were in Kazan in July, we could resume the format of matches, which was popular in the past century, where the best divers of the USSR, GDR and USA competed. Such events were also popular in athletics, swimming and could include the strongest athletes of other countries too.

With due respect, Belarus doesn’t have strong divers now. Yevgeny Korolyov seems to have retired from sport. Andrey Pavlyuk performs in Cirque du Soleil, while for Yana Nesterova the 10 m platform is too low because she is specialised in high diving. Though there is still a chance of fixing the situation both in swimming and diving when another two competitions will be held in November and December and we will be able to understand who is ready to cooperate with Russia and Belarus.

Also, we should pay respect to the organisers of the Solidarity Games for the participation of teams of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. One should keep in mind that Russia isn’t alone in sports isolation. We have Belarus next to us that started to be cold-shouldered much earlier. Start with the 2021 Olympics in London when President of the country and at the same time President of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee Alexander Lukashenko was denied entrance. The Belarusian presidential elections in 2011 are the reason. Then the attitude to him changed dramatically after holding the 2nd European Games in 2019 in history.

Then, Lukashenko received an Olympic order from IOC President Thomas Bach, warmly talked with him and hugged. Lukashenko’s shoulders still remembered the warmth of Bach’s hands when he and the country started to be banned from the international sports movement in 2021. Belarus was taken away the IIHF World Championship in favour of Latvia, while one of the deputies of the Latvian Saeima Aigars Bikše who offered to hold Belarusian ice hockey player in captivity to then exchange them for political prisoners.

1984 again

Again back to the history of boycotts, we cannot help but note that both Canada and the USA replied to the Soviet sport when they participated in the Friendship international competition in 1984. This tournament was out reply to the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles that socialist countries and some developing states boycotted. Nevertheless, athletes not only from the USA and Canada that competed in Los Angeles but also Norway, the FRG, Japan that altogether seriously boycotted the Olympics in Moscow in 1980 came to the competition.

Interestingly, the administration changed in the USA and Canada, President Ronald Regan instead of Jimmy Carter and Prime Minister of Canada Joe Clark instead of Pier Trudeau. For some reason, Trudeau is considered the “friend” of the USSR, though he can be said to have big sympathy to then USSR Ambassador to Canada Alexander Yakovlev, the future “architect of Perestroika.” Gambia boycotted Moscow in 1980, however, Senegal competed, and a year later both countries created a new country Senegambia that existed through 1989. However, in international competitions, representatives of this union performed separately.

Another thing is that the international sports movement is in a serious crisis. For instance, the international Universiades lost two competitions at once, the summer and winter games in 2021, and risk losing 2023 too, in any case, for Yekaterinburg, the host of the summer competition. China was ready to compete internationally with pleasure, but at the same time it cancelled not only the Summer Universiade in Chengdu, Asian Games in Hangzhou but also all scheduled tennis tournaments. Neither will the Figure Skating Grand Prix stage be held.

George Orwell’s famous 1984 novel is actively used by propagandists on both sides to mock at the current Russian or Western reality. At the same time, in 1984, our mass media looked for a slip to present the Olympics in Los Angeles in an unfavourable light, and then compared the results of the 1984 Friendship Games to raise their significance. Sadly, the same repeats now when the federal mass media publish articles about what protocols are allowed at the World Athletic Championship in Eugene and what difficulties the French have when preparing for the Olympics in Paris in 2024.

One should not trust this, money is likely be spent because it is necessary to pay for bad PR too as well as for the PR saying the great organisation of the Solidarity Games in Kazan. But let’s be frank. The high interest in the football Champions League is provided by its competitors. For instance, play semifinals with athletes from Bayern, Barcelona, Liverpool and Real and they can play in some Pristina and Tirana with all the following problems. But the Champions League has “fast days” too. The current swimming tournament in Kazan with Russia and Belarus resembled Porto and Monaco, Deportivo and Chelsea in 2003. In diving, a duller competition awaits us, and here it is impossible to correct the situation with stories about the high level of referees and awards, amazing holiday and the intense cultural programme for athletes. Then is nothing to watch when there is nobody to show to.

Jaudat Abdullin

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