In a proposal which could put India in a tricky situation, Russia has offered to host the inaugural Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Games, despite a ban imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on its member nations to take part in sporting events in that country.
Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin, who is currently on an official visit to India, has put forward an initiative to hold the first SCO Games in his country, the Russian Sports Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We propose to consider Russia as a possible country to host the SCO Games in coordination with the SCO chair state for another calendar year,” Matytsin was quoted as saying in the Russian Sports Ministry statement.
“The activities of the association could be aimed at strengthening ties in the development of Olympic, non-Olympic, Paralympic and national sports; the association will promote sports activities among the SCO member states.”
The statement said Matytsin participated in a meeting with the heads of ministries and departments that oversee the development of physical culture and sports in the member states of the SCO, including representatives from Russia, India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
There could be far reaching consequences if the proposal is accepted by the member countries of the SCO as the IOC has last month asked the international spots federations and National Olympic Committees not to take take part in any event in Russia and Belarus following the Ukraine war.
The IOC is, however, planning to allow Russians and Belarusians to return to competition ahead of qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes without national symbols.
“With regard to the sanctions…unanimously re-affirmed and called for a reinforcement of the sanctions already in place: No international sports events being organised or supported by an IF or NOC in Russia or Belarus,” a statement of the IOC said on January 25 said after its Executive Board meeting.
“No flag, anthem, colours or any other identifications whatsoever of these countries being displayed at any sports event or meeting, including the entire venue.
“No Russian and Belarusian Government or State official should be invited to or accredited for any international sports event or meeting.” In another statement issued on February 28, the IOC recommended international sports federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.
“…the IOC EB strongly urges International Sports Federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus,” it said.
“Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed.” The global body said it had arrived at the decision after consultation with IOC members, the entire network of athletes’ representatives, the international federations and the National Olympic Committees.
Russia’s proposal though contained no details of when the event could take place, or how large it would be.
Under the circumstances, taking part in an event in Russia could invite ban from the IOC. The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was banned by the IOC for 14 months from December 2012 to February 2014, one of the reasons being government interference in its functioning.
The participation of India athletes in multi-sport events like the Olympics, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games is done through the IOA.
The top brass of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and sports ministry couldn’t be reached for a comment.
Most Olympic sports have excluded athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus since shortly after the start of Ukraine War.
Last month, 35 countries in a signed statement criticised the IOC for its plans to allow Russians and Belarusians to return to competition ahead of qualifying events for the 2024 Paris Olympics as neutral athletes without national symbols.
But, on the other hand, the Olympic Council of Asia in January invited Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Asian Games scheduled to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8 and qualify for the 2024 Olympics, though the details and the modalities are yet to be worked out.
On Monday, Tajikistan Football Association also invited Russia to participate in the inaugural Central Asian Football Association Championships in June along with seven other national teams, including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Iran.
Russian football teams have been barred from European and FIFA competitions since the invasion of Ukraine in February last year.