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Russia: Sports sanctions intensify

March 02, 2022
JOSE BRETON/PICS ACTION/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES
JOSE BRETON/PICS ACTION/NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Following global criticism, sports organizations are more harshly sanctioning Russia for instigating the war with Ukraine last week, banning Russian teams and athletes from competition and making moves to weaken the Russian economy.

The competitive bans: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) encouraged sports bodies to bar Russian teams from competition on Monday. FIFA and UEFA kicked Russian teams out of soccer competition the same day. Tennis officials, on the other hand, needed Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina’s threats to boycott matches against Russian and Belarusian opponents if the athletes did not compete under neutral flags before making things official.

  • The FIFA and UEFA decisions mean Russia cannot compete in this year’s women’s European Championship nor the upcoming men’s and women’s World Cups.
  • World No. 15 Svitolina threatened to withdraw from the Monterrey Open and all future matches against Russian or Belarusian players. Despite being the tournament’s No. 1 seed, she was willing to forfeit the $31K purse.
  • The IOC is slow to practice what it’s preaching. The International Paralympic Committee meets today to decide if Russian athletes can compete in the Winter Games, which begin Friday.

The economic focus: The sports sanctions on Russia have primarily come from European bodies, including UEFA’s cancellation of its partnership with Russia’s majority state-owned gas company, Gazprom. But North America is beginning to follow suit — the NHL is suspending all Russia-related activities.

  • The NHL is unique in North American sports for its close ties with Russia — the league is home to a number of high-profile Russian athletes, has Russian-language social and digital media platforms, and hosts events in Russia.
  • The NHL’s moves mimic the low- and high-level global response to the war, crippling the Russian economy: the value of a Russian ruble is currently less than 1 U.S. cent.
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