Russia snatches away major sporting events as invasion of Ukraine intensifies
As Russian forces went deeper into Ukraine on Friday, the sporting body swiftly moved to snatch Russia’s events, losing the St Petersburg Champions League final while the Formula One Grand Prix will not be held in Sochi.
Russia launched its offensive by land, air and sea after President Vladimir Putin declared war on Thursday, with an estimated 100,000 people fleeing large cities in the form of explosions and gunfire.
European football governing body UEFA decided to move the Champions League final – club football’s showpiece event – to the Stade de France in Paris after receiving support from French President Emmanuel Macron.
The Kremlin met the decision with regret but was welcomed by UK Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries.
“Russia should not be allowed to exploit sporting and cultural events on the world stage to legitimize its unprovoked, premeditated and unnecessary attack against a sovereign democratic state,” Doris said.
Formula One, motorsport’s governing body the FIA and the teams discussed the situation and came to the conclusion that “it is impossible to hold the Russian Grand Prix under the current conditions”. The race, which was added to the calendar in 2014, was scheduled for 25 September at the Olympic Park in Sochi. On Thursday, former champion Sebastian Vettel and defending champion Max Verstappen both said it was “wrong” to race in Russia.
After Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic refused to play World Cup qualifiers in Russia, UEFA stated that Ukrainian and Russian club home games and national teams competing in UEFA competitions would be played at neutral venues. Spartak Moscow’s chances in the Europa League could be affected after a draw with German side RB Leipzig. The Russian team had the advantage of being seeded for a draw, but will now have to play the second leg at a neutral venue.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) urged international sports federations to either move or cancel currently planned sporting events in Russia or Belarus. The International Judo Federation (IJF) said it had canceled the Grand Slam event in Kazan, Russia, scheduled for May 20-22, but in a brief statement, IJF president Marius Wieser made no reference to Russia or Ukraine.
“The International Judo Federation announces with regret the cancellation of the 2022 Grand Slam in Kazan, Russia,” said Wieser, who has long ties with Putin, who is himself a judoka. “We are saddened by the current international situation, the result of inefficient dialogue at the international level.”
When the offensive began on Thursday, Russian troops entered Ukraine via Belarus. The IOC said flags of both countries should not be shown at sporting events. Five World Cup skiing events in Russia this weekend and next month have been canceled or moved by the International Ski Federation (FIS) in the interest of the safety and integrity of the competition.
“Participants are already on site in two World Cup events that were planned for this weekend and the FIS is working closely with the stakeholders involved to ensure their return home,” it said.
‘Aside from politics’
However, the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) said preparations for the men’s world championships to be held in Russia in August were going as planned, but bodies were reluctant to pull off Russia’s events.
“While the FIVB believes that sport should always remain separate from politics, we are monitoring the situation closely to ensure the safety and well-being of all participants in our events,” the FIVB told Reuters.
The FIVB did not say whether there would be any sanctions for the Russian Volleyball Federation.
English Premier League club Manchester United said they have withdrawn sponsorship rights to Russian airline Aeroflot. Aeroflot was banned from flying to the United Kingdom on Thursday and its foreign carrier permits were suspended.
Finnish ice hockey team Jokerit said they are ending their Continental Hockey League (KHL) season before next month’s playoffs. The team has regularly qualified for the playoffs, but club president Jari Kuri said it was “impossible” to continue its season in the Russian-based league.
The International Tennis Federation also has events in Russia and Ukraine this year. But it took steps to postpone the World Tennis Tour tournament to be held in Ukraine in April. The International Chess Federation (FIDE) said that the Chess Olympiad and the FIDE Congress would not take place in Moscow later this year and were trying their best to find another organizer for the Olympiad.
The World Curling Federation Board called an emergency meeting and removed the Russian city of Perm from the European Curling Championships scheduled for May. Swimming’s global governing body FINA canceled next month’s men’s water polo World League match in St Petersburg, while an artistic swimming and diving World Series event scheduled for April in Kazan was cancelled.
The European Aquatics Board postponed competitions including a women’s water polo Euro League quarter-final game in Russia to confirm a date and venue.