As Russia goes to Ukraine, so goes their water sport
Does anyone want to be a Russian athlete these days? Exactly.
With Vladimir Putin deciding to invade another sovereign country with the ultimate goal of recreating the Soviet Union – whatever others have to say – the whole world has made its displeasure known in its own way. Banks can no longer do business with Russia, no more flights from Russia making landings, etc. Here in the North, we have decided to remove all Russian liquor from the shelves until further notice. A small gesture that probably won’t force Putin’s hand but, hey, better than sitting and watching.
Since I cover sports, and many of you have been kind enough to tell me to stick to sports writing (shut up and dribble, right?), let’s talk in. Basically, anything involving Russian athletes or teams of any kind has been affected. Here’s what we know so far:
The UEFA Champions League final, which was due to take place in Saint Petersburg in May, will now take place in Paris in May;
The World Curling Federation moved the European Curling Championship in November away from the city of Perm and will host it elsewhere.
The St. Petersburg Open tennis tournament has been moved to Kazakhstan (…okay?) and will take place in September;
Two of the non-Russian Continental Hockey League teams, Jokerit from Finland and Dinamo Riga from Latvia, have decided to leave the league and will return to their domestic leagues;
The men’s national football teams of Poland, the Czech Republic and Sweden have announced that they will not play any World Cup qualifying matches against the Russian national team, while the English Football Federation has said that its teams wouldn’t play anything Russian “for the foreseeable future”;
The International Olympic Committee, always on the side of what you are not, is “very concerned” about the events taking place in Ukraine. He offered to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes and teams from competing under their own flags and not using their anthems, which is confusing because I thought the IOC had already banned the use of the word ‘Russia’ in its programming. But I’m not the CIO so I guess that makes sense.
Pick a sport or event and chances are Russia will be affected in some way. FIFA, the international governing body of football, was a bit late for the game as it only banned Russia from competing in anything after the world considered its initial decision to allowing Russia to compete as the Russian Football Union, similar to the IOC allowing Russia to compete as the Russian Olympic Committee. Essentially, the non-Russian Russian angle.
When we think of athletes, we first think of the National Hockey League because there are quite a number of Russian players who make their living on this side of the Pacific Ocean. A lot of statements I’ve read from Russian players, especially Alexander Ovechkin, are very vague. Of course they don’t want war – who wants war? – but nothing really beats a condemnation. The NHL condemned the Russian invasion and will suspend activities with one of its Russian partners.
I can see their point of view because the last thing they need is to be considered “traitors”. Putin loves his hockey – he even scored eight goals in an all-star game involving some of Russia’s greatest players, like, oh my God! — and anything from players like Ovechkin or Nikita Kucherov or anyone with name value speaking ill of “military action,” Putin’s fanciful term for his invasion, would mean a one-way, all-expenses-paid, to the nearest salt mine to Khabarovsk for these guys and their families.
Although I love Dominik Hasek and his line about how players are, well, chicken poo. Use your imagination.
Now that I’ve stopped dribbling for the moment, let me post about all of this:
It could have, and should have, been stopped long before we reached this point. Diplomacy is the way you do it, but people like Putin only understand one thing: force. If we had helped Ukraine a little better than just holding up slips of paper telling the world we are with them and, oh, you don’t like that cute hashtag, Putin would have read the tea leaves. Ronald Reagan was right during his presidency when he said “peace through strength”. War should be the absolute last option, but you also show the other side that you mean business by showing them that yours is bigger than theirs.
If the artillery had appeared earlier, Putin would have retreated. And if that didn’t work, then the sanctions would kick in. Yes, the sanctions have crippled the Russian economy to the point that a piece of toilet paper is worth more than a rouble, but Putin probably did a cost analysis before jumping in. He probably knew the world wouldn’t do anything to him until he moved in, which would give him plenty of opportunity to collect his kopeks and count his savings.
It is in oil and gas that Putin will be hit hardest, which is why when the troop buildup was first noticed around this time last year, all oil and gas imports should have been stopped. All of this only gave Putin more money for his coffers and more confidence that the world wouldn’t stop him. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline should have been capped and oil and gas deals made with allies. Like, for example, Canada. But when you become dependent on an adversary for energy through outsourcing your environmental policy to a Swedish teenager, that’s the end result.
Russian diplomats should have been fired, embassies closed, relations severed. It’s terribly difficult for Russia to do business around the world when no country even wants to pick up the phone and you can’t pressure anyone in person. Of course, China can play on any sanctions, diplomatic, financial or otherwise, but it will only buy a limited amount. Do you think other allies like Iran, Venezuela or Cuba will take over? Venezuela’s currency is toilet paper because that’s how some people paid for goods and services in this once prosperous (and very, very oil-rich) nation. The barter system, gang.
Anyway, they claim there are smarter people than me working on this, so let them try to figure it out. In the meantime, I’ll see how I do with speaking and pitching.