Lawmaker proposes Russia launch Goodwill Games in reply to Olympic ban

Opening ceremony of the first Goodwill Games (July 5-20, 1986) on the Moscow Vladimir Lenin Central Stadium (now "Luzhniki" Olympic complex). © Yuriy Somov
A St. Petersburg city lawmaker has proposed countering the ban on Russian athletes’ participation in Olympics with an alternative competition, similar to the Goodwill Games that took place in the USSR in 1986.

In a letter to Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, Vitaly Milonov wrote, “We are watching the continuing aggravation of the situation around Rio Olympics with great disappointment. It deems obvious that the international organizations that are applying pressure at our country are just tools in the hands of western powers that exercise a lowly intent to undermine the national spirit of the Russian Federation.”

Sports have no place for international political struggle without regard to costs. Sports must be fair. What we are witnessing today is just an attempt to name the winners of the Olympics before the games have even started and get rid of our country as a dangerous competitor” Milonov continued.

Considering the current political situation in the sporting sphere and the obvious witch hunt that the Western nations are waging against our athletes, it would be appropriate for our side to revive the Goodwill Games,” he added.

READ MORE: Russian athletes to remain banned from Rio - Court of Arbitration for Sport

The Goodwill Games took place in Moscow in 1986 as an attempt to negate the consequences of two Olympic boycotts. In 1980 the United States and many other countries refused to attend the Moscow Olympics in protest over the Soviet Union’s military operation in Afghanistan. The USSR and Warsaw Pact nations reciprocated by boycotting the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

The 1986 games were organized by CNN founder Ted Turner with the participation of UNICEF and other international groups. Those Goodwill Games were attended by delegations from 79 nations. In total there were six Summer Goodwill games and two Winter Goodwill Games. The 2005 games were canceled because by then the Cold War had ended and Olympic boycotts had stopped.

Milonov’s initiative has already gained some support in the federal parliament. MP Vadim Dengin (Liberal-Democratic Party) said in comments with Izvestia daily that Russia had a good base for a major international event in Sochi and enough allies across the world to make the games representative and interesting.

However, former head of the Russian Football Union Vyacheslav Koloskov dismissed Milonov’s letter as populism. He said that Russia lacked sufficient funds for such projects and also that athletes across the world would not be interested in participating.

Earlier this week the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) denied the Russian Olympic Committee’s appeal against the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) decision to ban 68 Russian track and field athletes from the upcoming Rio Olympics over the doping scandal that developed earlier this year. The decision adds further weight to calls for the IOC to implement a blanket ban on the Russian Olympic delegation in Rio.

Russian officials, including Mutko and President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov, expressed regret over this development. On Thursday, Mutko told the press that Russia will take the case to a civil court, as it violated the rights of 'clean’, conscientious athletes and created a dangerous legal precedent.

I believe we'll continue defending our honor and dignity, meaning the time has come to apply to a civil court," the minister said.

READ MORE: Russia to challenge Rio Olympics ban in civil court – sports minister