Putin makes sports suggestion for major regional bloc
The Russian leader is attending a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has suggested that members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could set up a sports association to facilitate closer ties between nations.
Putin is currently attending an SCO summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, where he has met leaders including Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“It seems that there are good opportunities to intensify sports cooperation with the prospect of holding major sporting events under the auspices of the SCO,” Putin was quoted by TASS as saying at the summit on Friday.
“To do this, we could think about creating an association of sports organizations [within the SCO],” added the Russian leader.
Russian athletes remain sidelined from major competitions across a variety of sports because of the conflict in Ukraine, following an International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommendation to international federations at the end of February.
That has led to Russia organizing alternative domestic tournaments for its sportsmen and women, but also talking up increased cooperation with partners in the SCO, BRICS and CIS groups of nations.
The SCO – where Putin is currently meeting fellow leaders – brings together nearly half the planet’s population and is the world’s largest regional organization.
It has eight permanent members at present: China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – with Iran recently signing documents to pave the way for it to join.
READ MORE: Kremlin explains purpose of world’s biggest regional bloc
At the same time as touting closer ties with the SCO and other organizations, Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin insisted earlier this month that his country continued to cooperate with existing structures such as the IOC, despite the current bans.
“The president of the Russian Federation spoke about this… We continue to interact with international organizations,” Matytsin said.
“We don’t need a confrontation with existing structures, there is no need to declare some kind of autonomy.
“This is not the first time we have faced political pressure, we have dealt with such situations in the past.
“We must be guided by the interests of our athletes.”
Russian officials including President Putin have repeatedly decried the bans imposed on their athletes as discriminatory and undermining the principle of sport being free from political influence.
It was suggested this week that the IOC could change its stance on Russian participation and was sounding out members about a “pathway” for a return for Russian athletes.