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Global sport: Are sport sanctions enough?

The GIST: Sports organizations continue to sanction Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but is it enough? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the latest (and largest), urging sporting bodies to move events out of Russia and Belarus and to stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.

February 28, 2022
VALERY SHARIFULIN\TASS VIA GETTY IMAGES
VALERY SHARIFULIN\TASS VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Sports organizations continue to sanction Russia following the country’s invasion of Ukraine, but is it enough? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is the latest (and largest), urging sporting bodies to move events out of Russia and Belarus and to stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.

The details: Following the IOC’s lead, several World Cup ski events were pulled out of Russia on Friday, including the women’s ski jumping competitions scheduled for March. Water sports’ governing body, FINA, also canceled two events: women’s artistic swimming and men’s water polo.

The criticism: There’s just one problem with these sanctions — Russia and Belarus remain involved in sports. Russian and Belarusian athletes are still set to compete in the upcoming Paralympics, and both national soccer teams are scheduled for qualifiers and friendlies.

  • Fortunately, athletes have ethics are taking initiative. As mentioned in The GIST’s sports newsletter today, 50 Olympic and Paralympic athletes, including 34 Ukrainians, have asked the IOC to suspend their Russian and Belarusian counterparts.
  • As for soccer, Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic are refusing to play their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Russia. England’s men’s and women’s national teams also won’t play Russia for the foreseeable future.

Zooming out: Thus far, (most) sports bodies are following the international response of targeting Russian money. Events and sponsorship deals are the simplest and most visible sources of sporting income, and the easiest to target for punishment.

  • Russia’s high-level sports involvement runs deep. These selective sanctions only add to questions of how close certain sports organizations (ahem, IOC and FIFA) have gotten to Russian president Vladimir Putin.
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