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“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
— Winston Churchill

Russian Sports Minister Oleg Matytsin has outlined to Russian President Vladimir Putin the plans to launch an international competition familiarly named the Friendship Games.

Kicked out of the proverbial political sandbox, Matytsin and Putin look to build their own play area including a series of so-called international competitions and the return of the Empire Friendship Games. The Friendship Games of course are planned to take place shortly after the 2024 Paris Olympics — here we go again.

On the surface, the proposition appears to be a childhood game to see who wants to play along. This can only end badly.

“We propose to intensify the practice of holding competitions in an open format with the invitation of partner countries,” Matytsin wrote, on the Kremlin’s website.

Perhaps, like chaos theory, the outcome will be the opposite of the intention. In fact, the plan reads like a metaphor borrowed from the computer sandbox, “a controlled environment that lets uncontrolled applications run, to mitigate system failures.”

Currently, only Belarus, perhaps China, and former Russian states are likely to take part in a Russian-hosted international sporting event. The timing is antagonistic in nature.

“We continue to fulfill your [Putin’s] instruction to organise the World Friendship Games in the fall of 2024.

“We consider it necessary to use the resources of both Russian and international public and state organisations to the maximum for the successful holding of the Games, which should be held on a regular basis in the future.”

With or without systematic doping?

We have been here before

Similarly, multi-event games known as the Friendship Games were organised by the former Soviet Union and eight Russian allies took part back in 1984. At the time, it was an alternative to the Los Angeles 1984 Olympic Games which experienced the infamous Russian-led boycott.

Not only do politics, sandbox or otherwise, influence sport in conflict with the idealism of the founder of the modern Olympic Games Pierre de Coubertain, it has also long dropped his now seemingly archaic manifest, “The important thing in these Olympiads is less to win than to take part in them.”

Besides the poor optics of the illegal incursion on Ukraine, Russia has always tried to win at all costs including the use of a systematic doping program.

The question here is, why don’t they get it? What is so difficult to understand that government-organised doping and hastily-organised games do not work? The Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany no longer exist as communist states. Communism did not work. Nor did the Friendship Games endure.

Interestingly, the medal table for those 1984 Games shows the count of the top-nine nations and seven were former communist or communist-like states: Soviet Union, East Germany, Bulgaria, Cuba, Hungary, Poland, North Korea, Czechoslovakia, and China, in that order.

Only time will tell, however, Russia seems doomed to repeat what the Soviet Union failed to accomplish.