Amid political leaders, heads of states, and the United Nations’ push for dialogue to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis and bring to an end Moscow’s invasion of its neighbours, the sports world has already taken stern steps against the Kremlin regime.
While world leaders have relied on sanctions of varying degrees to compel Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his troops from Ukraine, the sports world has been united in calling for a boycott of all Russia-linked events and sponsorships.
The Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and Formula One has dropped the Russian Grand Prix, scheduled for September 25, from its 2022 calendar following the invasion of Ukraine. The move follows a meeting of officials from the FIA, Formula One, and representatives of the 10 teams during pre-season testing in Barcelona over the weekend.
Earlier, German driver and four-time Drivers’ World Champion Sebastian Vettel had refused to travel to Russia for the race. On the last day of the pre-season tests, the Haas F1 Team ran without the logo of main sponsors Uralkali, whose owner Dmitry Mazepin is believed to be close to Putin. The future of Mazepin’s son Nikita, who drives for the American team, has also been thrown into question.
Russian tennis star Andrey Rublev won the hearts of fans with an anti-war message following his victory over Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the Dubai Tennis Championships semi-final. In a brief clip following his win, Rublev wrote on the courtside camera “No war please”.
He said in a presser that it was important to have peace in the world and to respect each other and be united.
His compatriot Daniil Medvedev was in for a “roller coaster day” as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine began. Named World No. 1 in the men’s game on the same day, Medvedev said at this stage, tennis was not so important. He added that as a tennis player, he wanted to promote peace.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemned Russia for violating the Olympic Truce on Friday. It called upon member states to cooperate with the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee to use sport as a tool for peace, dialogue, and reconciliation in conflict-ridden areas.
The Olympic Truce is a resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly that began seven days before the start of the Beijing Olympics and ends a week after the Paralympic Games, scheduled for March 4-13.
The IOC Executive Board has also urged all international sports federations to move or cancel their events planned in Russia or Belarus.
The legendary boxing duo, former heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko and his brother Wladimir, said they would take up arms to protect their country.
Wladimir, also a former world champion, enlisted in Ukraine’s reserve army citing, while Vitali has been the mayor of Kyiv since 2014.
Finnish ice hockey outfit HC Jokerit has told the Russian Kontinental Hockey League about withdrawing from the league’s Gagarin Cup playoffs.
Kontinental Hockey League President Alexei Morozov said Jokerit’s withdrawal was unfortunate as their departure was not for sporting reasons, but political ones.
The football world has reacted in the strongest manner to the Russian invasion. Premier League giants Manchester United have already announced that they would drop their £40 million sponsorship with Russian national carrier Aeroflot.
German heavyweights Schalke 04, sponsored by Russian state-owned gas behemoth Gazprom, have announced that they would drop their logo from the shirts and replace it with the club’s name.
UEFA, the governing body of football in Europe, is reportedly planning to end its sponsorship deal with Gazprom for the UEFA Champions League. The UEFA Champions League final, which was to be held in May in Saint Petersburg, has already been moved to Paris.
The football federations of Poland, Sweden, and the Czech Republic have also opposed playing World Cup qualifiers on Russian soil next month. Russia are scheduled to Poland in a World Cup play-off semi-final on March 24. Should they win, they could host either the Czech Republic or Sweden on March 29th.
Poland captain Robert Lewandowski lent his weight behind the move, calling it the right decision.
Ukraine international left back Oleksandr Zinchenko was moved to tears by tributes from Manchester City and Everton prior to their Premier League clash on Saturday. The Everton fans gave Zinchenko a rousing welcome to Goodison Park in the build-up to the game. Zinchenko and Everton’s Vitaly Mykolenko, another Ukrainian, also shared a warm embrace during the warm-up. Both Zinchenko and Mykolenko have expressed their rejection of the Russian invasion before coming together at Goodison Park for a show of unity.
But perhaps the biggest development in football was Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic, believed to be close to Putin, handing over the club’s running to its charitable trust. The Russian has owned the club for nearly 20 years, but his ties to Putin have recently come under scrutiny amid the Ukraine invasion. Abramovic will remain the club’s owner, but will be less hands-on.
The International Judo Federation has suspended Putin’s status as Honorary President and Ambassador of the organisation following the attack on Ukraine.
Putin has a black belt in judo and was awarded with the honorary status in 2008.