Russian players suspended at Wimbledon: pawns in political game or more at stake? – National

A ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players at this year’s Wimbledon has become a contentious issue as the championships kicked off this week.

The All England Club has banned all Russian and Belarusian players from attending the prestigious Grand Slam event due to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which is now in its fifth month.

Senior men’s tennis player Daniil Medvedev, eighth-seeded Andrey Rublev, world number six Aryna Sabalenka and former women’s number one Victoria Azarenka of Belarus are among those sidelined by the ban.

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Wimbledon bans Russian and Belarusian tennis players over Ukraine war

The move drew criticism from other players, as well as from the men’s and women’s tennis federations, which stripped the event of ranking points.

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The ban is “unfairly” targeting individual players who are being treated as “pawns in this whole political game”, but some analysts say there is much more at stake.

“It’s very symbolic and there are economic and political ramifications for the country that is the target of the boycotts,” said Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, a retired University of Toronto professor who specializes in criticism of the Olympic industry and gender issues in sport .

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Daniel Rubenson, a professor of politics at Toronto Metropolitan University, said Wimbledon’s stance could make sense if it has the support of other sports governing bodies – but it will not end the war.

“This is not just a pin of the Ukrainian flag on your lapel. It’s actually expensive,” he told Global News.

“I think it can have an impact … because countries and leaders use sport as propaganda and they use sport to try to mobilize their country.”

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Wimbledon organizers have defended the ban, with the All England Club chairman saying the decision was influenced by the UK government and there was “no viable alternative”.

Speaking to ESPN on Sunday, Ian Hewitt said the AEC did not want Russia to use Wimbledon as a “propaganda machine”.

“We deeply regret the impact on the individual players affected, but we also regret the impact on so many innocent people that the tragic situation in Ukraine has caused,” he said.

Political sanctions in sport

Sanctions and boycotts due to political differences are not alien to international sport.

The United States boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics in protest at the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

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South Africa faced a number of sporting sanctions from major international governing bodies during the apartheid era for its institutionalized racial segregation.

Rubenson said the ban on South African athletes had “played a really big role” in changing world opinion against apartheid and putting pressure on the South African government.

“Sport has always been used politically and will continue to be so,” he told Global News.

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International sport cannot separate politics from sport and has failed trying to remain neutral, said Bruce Berglund, historian of Europe, Russia and world sport.

“It really played into (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s hands in trying to maintain neutrality,” he said of FIFA, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s previous dealings with Russia.

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“Organizations hosting these events must be mindful of international affairs.”

Russian and Belarusian tennis players are currently barred from international team competitions, but may compete as individual athletes under a neutral flag in tour events.

They were allowed to play in the French Open in Paris, which ended earlier this month, and will be able to play in the upcoming US Open and warm-up tournaments in Canada.

Lenskyj said tennis has set a good example in challenging countries like Russia and other international federations could do well to follow his lead.

“They cannot remain silent and they cannot be neutral,” she said.

– with files from Katherine Aylesworth and Reuters

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc. Russian players suspended at Wimbledon: pawns in political game or more at stake? – National


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