It’s well known that in the ancient times the Olympics were so important to stop wars. Less famous than those, the International Army Games were born and raised in Russia in 2015 and they arrived at their third edition in the summer 2017, right in between Rio 2016 and Pyongchang 2018. They look scary and they are exactly what they seem: a competition among armies to display who has got the strongest potential and arsenal, with challenges which are a cross between Games Without Frontiers, Master Chef (but not as funny) and military drills.
The contest, prerogative of Russia for three years in a row, includes tanks biathlon – individual and for teams, with obstacles and shooting – Suvorov attack, named after the military leader of the XVIII century, confrontation between snipers, aviators, parachutists, amphibious and underwater transportation, chefs, field doctors, for a total of 22 disciplines.
After invading Crimea, Putin’s Russia decided to heavily invest in its army, with a 300 billion euros renovating program and this kind of anti-Olympics are the perfect occasion to show it without being taken for the bad imperialists in the eyes of the international public opinion.
Anyway, the list of Countries enrolled is everything but reassuring. The last edition, co-hosted by Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus and China, had the record number of 28 participants, most of them involved in more or less recent conflicts, civil wars, in tension with the neighbors or “just” dictatorships: Syria, Iran, Venezuela, Israel, Egypt, Kuwait, Thailand, Laos, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, El Salvador.
In the first two editions there was no NATO member, not that this is a discerning between good and evil, but those are absences with a diplomatic weight. Russia sent the invitations, though. The only one who accepted was Greece, a name that seems out of tune among the others.
The most adequate note to these reverse Olympics was given by the Russian minister of Defense, Sergej Šojgu, who overturning the good old Pierre de Coubertin said: “the essential thing is winning”.