Russia’s loss is other nations’ gain

The International Olympic Committee asked international bodies to cancel all events slated to be held in Russia.

Unfortunate: Should Formula One have banned Russia’s Nikita Mazepin, and his team Haas rushed to terminate their contract with him? This move was initially criticised because Mazepin is not competing as a Russian, although he is licensed from Russia.   -  AP

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has seen international sporting bodies — after a brief wait-and-watch period — reacting decisively. It has also raised the question: should individuals pay the price for what their country has done?

Also, if it is so easy to punish a country for its politics and its human rights record, how did Russia themselves, China and others earn the privilege of hosting major events like the World Cup football and the Olympics?

Russia find themselves in the doghouse where sport is concerned. The International Olympic Committee has asked international bodies to cancel all events slated to be held there. FIFA has expelled them from the World Cup and banned them from hosting international matches. The Formula One Grand Prix is cancelled, the world championships in volleyball and skating will now be shifted out of Russia. World rugby too has suspended Russia.

Tennis players, Formula One drives and other sportsmen and women not reliant on the national federation for their sport have been, quite sensibly, allowed to remain in competition. There will be no raising of the Russian flag nor will the Russian anthem be sung at these events.

When, without mentioning the war and speaking of the “geopolitical situation”, the international chess federation, FIDE, decided to relocate the 44th Chess Olympiad from Moscow, India put in a bid to host it. Russia’s loss will be to the gain of other nations keen on hosting international tournaments.

Should Formula One have banned Russia’s Nikita Mazepin, and his team Haas rushed to terminate their contract with him? This move was initially criticised because Mazepin is not competing as a Russian, although he is licensed from Russia.

Then it transpired that a chemicals and mining company part-owned by Mazepin’s father, the oligarch Dmitry Mazepin which was the team’s main sponsor, had pulled out. The two came as a package deal — the sponsorship and the driver, and when one withdrew, the other had to go.

Should Daniil Medvedev win the French Open or Wimbledon, he will do so as an individual; something will always be missing.

Sport could put sportsmen in a tricky position if the price of participation for a Russian is that he condemn his country’s invasion of Ukraine. Where does the state end and the individual begin? If a country is its people, how do sports bodies make the distinction without sounding like tyrants themselves? Do you equate a nation with its government?

Whoever said that sports and politics do not mix or should not be allowed to do so was clearly an unthinking soul whose grasp on reality was tenuous.

Sporting sanctions do work, as they did in South Africa in the days of apartheid. They hastened the end of that inhuman regime. In times of war such things as volleyball and skating might not be as important as lives lost and economic hardships. But the sanctions will mean that Russian sport will be set back by some years. Whether Russia pays for it or not, Russians certainly will.

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