The Relationship between the Russian-Ukrainian War and Sports
Conflict is a terrible event that puts many people in danger and can make a nation face terrible consequences. Although we tend to only look at actual battles, conflict seeps its way into every corner of society, one of which is the predominant medium of sports. Sports are a huge platform for people everywhere and have been used to exemplify the terrible conflicts of the past. The 1916, 1940, and 1944 Olympics were outright canceled due to World Wars, and the United States and Soviet Union withheld their athletes from the 1980 and 1984 Olympic games respectively, due to high tension and general lack of security among the nations. This is no different for the present conflict between Russia and Ukraine, as athletes everywhere have used their platforms to try to help raise awareness for and slow the war.
A Call For Action
Russian athletes in particular, have taken the opportunity to speak out against the war. Alex Ovechkin of the NHL’s Washington Capitals spoke out against the war in a press conference, taking a stance, although a conservative one, that many other players were unwilling to comment on. Tennis star Andrey Rublev wrote “No war please” on a camera lens after his semifinal match in the Dubai Tennis Championship, and soccer player Fedor Smolov made an Instagram post in support of Ukraine. These athletes have a large public platform and used their resources to speak out about the war and conflicts around the world.
International sports organizations have also taken action in response to the war. Formula 1 removed a race from Sochi and multiple players have quit the Russian hockey league since the war. European soccer moved the Champions league final from Russia and FIFA removed all mention of Russia from the games the “Football Union of Russia” played in. The International Ice Hockey Federation barred Russia and Belarus from competitions and revoked their right to host the World Junior Championships in 2023. The Paralympic Winter Games also barred Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in 2022.
Although Athletes and Organizations in sports may not make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, the use of their large platforms is a prime example of how far war reaches and who it affects. This issue is not exclusive to the involved nations, but a global problem that everyone can raise awareness about and try to aid in efforts to deescalate the situation. Sports as a whole are a large part of global relations and interaction. They should be treated as more than just a competition, but as a stage for political and social issues to be voiced alongside the games we love.
Blackistone, Kevin B. “Perspective | Alex Ovechkin's Voice Is Powerful. His Comments on Ukraine Were a Missed Opportunity.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 28 Feb. 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2022/02/27/alex-ovechkin-ukraine-war/.
Waldstein, David, and Amy Chang Chien. “In Reversal, Paralympics Bars Athletes from Russia and Belarus.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Mar. 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/03/sports/olympics/paralympics-russia.html.
“IIHF - IIHF Council Takes Definitive Action over Russia, Belarus.” IIHF International Ice Hockey Federation, https://www.iihf.com/en/news/32301/iihf_council_announces_decisions_over_russia_belar.