At the inaugural Laureus World Sports Awards in 2000, founding patron Nelson Mandela said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.”
Easier said than done. In an ideal world, sport and politics should not mix. But when the scenario is as grave and murky like the present, there is little choice.
Russia’s attack on Ukraine has not only divided the globe on political lines, the sporting world too has taken sides. International sporting federations have hastened to isolate Russia by pulling out events scheduled there, and major teams have or are in the process of ending sponsorship deals with corporates from that nation.
Football, Formula One, skiing, volleyball and ice hockey, the verdict is unanimous — isolate Russia.
Shooting is no different as the International Olympic Committee has urged sports bodies to cancel or move all events they plan to hold in Russia and Belarus, and stop using the countries’ flags and national anthems.
The fallout of the volatile situation is something the ISSF, shooting’s world governing body, will have to handle as the ISSF World Cup got underway in Cairo on Saturday.
At ISSF’s helm is Vladimir Lisin, an influential Russian businessman and a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. As ISSF president, Lisin took to Facebook late on Thursday for an update on the upcoming European Championship scheduled in Moscow from August 15-30.
“I am strongly concerned about the current situation. I do understand that not all athletes will be able to come to the European Championship 25/50m/RT/Shotgun. I am deeply sorry! The ISSF Headquarters and the ESC Presidium don’t have any right to make competitions unequal and to limit athletes in chances to win a quota for Olympic Games in Paris 2024. I am sure we will find a solution and will host the Championship in some other place,” he wrote.
The statement was bereft of any political overtone but given his proximity to Putin, a later post in which Likin updated his profile picture evoked a strong reaction. It was a graphic with a map of Ukraine and a caption “Hands Off”.
More of this and worse could be in store if Russian hostility continues, and it does not bode well for shooting or for that matter any sport.