Within a week of IOC leader Thomas Bach taking the podium at the close of the Games in Beijing with an impassioned plea for peace among nations, Russia launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, one of its neighbors to the southwest.
The response from the sports world was swift and decisive, with a widespread pullout of events previously scheduled for Russia. Among them:
- UEFA, soccer’s European governing body, moved the site of this year’s Champions League final from Saint Petersburg’s Gazprom Arena to Paris’ Stade de France.
- Formula 1 cancelled its Russian Grand Prix.
- The International Ski Federation has announced Russia will not host any more of its World Cup events this winter.
- All tennis events in Russia previously scheduled by the International Tennis Federation have been cancelled
- The European curling championships, previously scheduled for Perm, Russia, will be moved to a new location.
- The International Judo Federation cancelled its Grand Slam event, scheduled for Russia; they also stripped Vladmir Putin of his honorary presidential role.
- Other sports, such as gymnastics, swimming and diving, volleyball and competitive climbing also cancelled events scheduled for Russia.
Additionally, many international events being held in other countries have noted that Russian athletes and teams will not be permitted to compete and the SportAccord Summit in Yekatarinburg has been cancelled - although considering GAISF has said it will disband, pundits are wondering why SportAccord was bothering to host this anyway.
In short, reports Paris 24, “Russia has become persona non grata.”
The IOC called upon all sports federations to either move or cancel sports events currently scheduled to be held in Russia or Belarus, notes India Today. And the only organization that waffled was FIFA. AlJazeera points out that FIFA initially ordered Russia to play matches without its flag and anthem at neutral venues, warning the country could be excluded from competitions if the situation in Ukraine does not improve – but that did not sit well with the rest of the sports world.
Polish Football Association chief Cezary Kulesza took to Twitter to express his displeasure about what he called FIFA’s “unacceptable decision," noting, “We are not interested in participating in this game of appearances. Our stance remains intact: Polish National Team will not play with Russia, no matter what the name of the team is. If FIFA’s Human Rights Policy is more than just words on paper, now is the time to put it into effect, excluding the Russian Football Association from qualifying for the Qatar World Cup in 2022.”
FIFA, seeing the writing on the wall, caved in and banned Russian teams.
Another problem: The Paralympics are coming and the challenges Ukrainian athletes will face to get there are expected to be nearly insurmountable. Russia has already violated the Olympic Truce, which calls for a halt to any fighting between the beginning of the Olympics and the conclusion of the Paralympics.
The Stadium Business reports that Oak View Group, the global venue development, advisory and investment company for the sports and live entertainment industries, has announced that it will not do business in or with Russia, and in fact, has also announced that it will not be serving Russian brands in any of its venues globally, effective immediately. German soccer club Schalke will be removing the logo of Russian energy giant Gazprom from their uniform as well.
Nationwide, as well as worldwide, venues are lighting up in the colors of Ukraine – blue and yellow – from London’s Wembley Stadium to Seattle’s Climate Pledge Stadium. Additionally, hashtags like #StandWithUkraine are becoming more popular.
For those who want to do more than use hashtags, The Stadium Business is encouraging readers to donate to a designated relief fund for Ukraine. The Washington Post also produced a list of U.S.-based and vetted organizations that are providing direct aid. For those interested in helping causes related to pets in Ukraine, here is another link.