Russia open to hosting sports events without discrimination

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has claimed the country remains open to staging international sports events, despite a multitude being moved already and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging International Federations (IFs) not to organise events there or in Belarus.

The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) 2023 Men’s Ice Hockey World Championships in St Petersburg on Tuesday became the latest high-profile event to be moved from Russia due to the invasion of Ukraine.

That followed the likes of the 2022 UEFA Champions League Final in the same city and the International Volleyball Federation Volleyball Men’s World Championship.

Critics have argued that Russia’s staging of major events, most notably the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympics Games and the men’s 2018 FIFA World Cup, amounted to sports washing on the part of Putin’s regime.

With the IOC having insisted IFs should move all events from Russia and Belarus, the prospect of the country staging sporting competitions in the near future appears remote, although it has bid to host the men’s UEFA European Championship in 2028 or 2032 and various International Skating Union events.

However, Putin has claimed that all athletes and officials would be welcome in Russia for sports competitions.

“There are no unfriendly countries for Russia,” the Russian President said, quoted by state news agency TASS.

“We welcome everyone standing for the sports without discrimination and artificial boundaries.

“We speak for the ideals of the sports including justice, equality and fair competitions.”

Russia and Belarus have largely been frozen out of international sport since the launch of what Moscow describes as a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24.

According to the United Nations, at least 2,729 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the military offensive, and more than 5.3 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine.

The IOC has recommended that Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials are excluded from international sports events, although elected officials from the nations have not been required to stand down.

Putin was speaking at a ceremony held at the Kremlin, where he presented Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic medalists with state awards. –

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