The International Olympic Committee has still not decided whether to allow Russian athletes to participate in the Olympic Games in Paris next year. And so the country is trying to break through the isolation it has found itself in due to the ongoing military aggression in Ukraine, in a different way. In autumn 2024, Russia plans to hold its own sports event, similar to the Olympics. Its budget is hundreds of millions of dollars to attract the biggest sports stars from abroad.
“I will buy you now. All of them.” Vladimir Putin could have responded with the well-known message of the movie hero played by Bolko Polívka when he commissioned the organization of the megalomaniacal sports tournament. The Russian president recently issued a harsh criticism of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which he accused of national discrimination. At the same time, he signed the order on the organization of an international event called the World Friendship Games.
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Some details are already known. The friendly games will take place in two cities – Moscow and Yekaterinburg from September 15 to 29. This term is not chosen randomly. The Olympics finish a month earlier in Paris, so the Russian organizers hope that the world’s sports elite will head to them after a short rest.
The biggest attraction for sports stars is supposed to be financial rewards. The Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government, Dmitry Chernyshenko, stated that 4.6 billion rubles (converted to around 46 million dollars, or over a billion crowns) will be reserved for bonuses for medalists.
Everyone knows how hospitable we are, the organizer entices
By which key they will be divided has not yet been determined. It is believed that the gold medalist could receive 100 thousand dollars. 75,000 dollars will be paid for the silver medal, 55,000 for the bronze medal. The organizers believe that the amount of premiums will influence the decision of foreign stars whether to go to Russia. They offer much more than athletes receive at competitions during the season.
For example, the winner of the stage of the World Cup in gymnastics usually receives a check for about $1,100 along with the gold medal. And the prize for the winner of the prestigious final of the Diamond League in athletics is supposed to be 30 thousand dollars. Compared to the competition, the Russian side is much more generous.
“We can offer athletes very interesting conditions. I believe that real stars will come to us because of this. Moreover, everyone abroad knows how hospitable Russians are. We will organize a world-class tournament,” promises Alexei Sorokin, director of the organizing committee of the Friendship Games, according to RIA Novosti.
There is also a competition program to attract foreign participants. So far, there are a total of 30 sports: 20 Olympic and 10 non-Olympic. The first category includes, for example, basketball, boxing, wrestling, tennis or swimming. For the second, beach football, chess, skateboarding or acrobatic rock and roll. However, the program of games can still be expanded and adjusted.
Likewise, the number of planned participants has not been definitively determined. Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian government Chernyshenko expects that approximately 5.5 thousand athletes will arrive at the new tournament, RIA Novosti reported. The president of the International Boxing Association (IBA) Umar Kremlev has much bolder plans and mentions 10 thousand competitors. This number would already be comparable to the Paris Olympics.
Is friendship more than friendship?
The idea of organizing your own sports mega-event at the same time as the Olympics, i.e. instead of it, is not new. The USSR came up with this idea for the first time in 1984. After the boycott of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, Soviet officials came to the conclusion that it was necessary to come up with a replacement. Thus was born an international tournament with the characteristic name Druzhba.
Races took place throughout the year in various socialist countries, including Czechoslovakia at the time. But the main part of Druzhba 84 took place in August in Moscow. Representatives of a total of 49 countries participated in various competitions, including the USA, Britain and France. Czechoslovakia also sent a large representation, which eventually won 48 medals, including two gold ones.
The organizing party believes that the Friendship Games will even trump the former Druzhba. According to Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matycin, applications will be sent to all UN member states – including Western countries and even Ukraine. “We are ready to ensure safety and equal competition rights for all athletes without distinction,” said the official proudly, according to RIA Novosti.
Apparently, the question of financing the megalomaniacal event does not bother the Minister of Sports. Just these days, the draft state budget for 2024 was published in Russia. It foresees a sharp reduction in the costs of education, healthcare, environmental protection and the fight against unemployment. On the contrary, spending on defense, international propaganda and sports in particular will increase several times.
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