BRICS Games offer the bloc an opportunity to cement ties

BRICS Games 2024 are set to be the most exciting when they are held in the Russian city of Kazan from June 20-23. Picture: Pixabay

BRICS Games 2024 are set to be the most exciting when they are held in the Russian city of Kazan from June 20-23. Picture: Pixabay

Published Jun 2, 2024


BRICS Games 2024 are set to be the most exciting when they are held in the Russian city of Kazan from June 20-23.

The much-anticipated multisport festivity is an annual event for athletes from the original member-states of BRICS, which are Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Games were first held in 2017 in Ganghzou, China. They are hosted by the nation that holds the rotational presidency or chairmanship of BRICS at the particular point.

Last year, South Africa hosted the hugely successful BRICS Games in Durban. They attracted hordes of enthusiastic athletes from the nations that make up the strategic geopolitical bloc.

This year’s games will be particularly exciting in that for the first time they will feature participants from the newly-incorporated members from the six additional members. They are Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Ethiopia and Argentina.

The Games feature multiple sporting codes such as volleyball, men and women’s football, Chinese wushu and taolu, among others.

But why are the BRICS Games important? Because, in an international world order that is subject to constant threats of unilateralism – a scourge that manifests itself through the imposition of economic sanctions against ideological opponents – co-operation among like-minded allies is key to survival.

United, the BRICS nations are strong, but their strength can only become effective when it filters down to the level of people-to-people diplomacy.

Through the friendly BRICS Games, participants from all the nations that sign up to the activities have the opportunity to intermingle freely and formulate lasting relations on a person-to-person basis.

Therefore, whereas the governments of the BRICS member states are behind the formulation and hosting of the BRICS Games, it is the ordinary citizens that benefit the most.

The fact that Games are held in accordance with the rotational chair of the bloc means that there lies an opportunity for overseas travel and the inevitable widening of horizons by the participating athletes.

Take, for instance, the unilateral isolation of Iran by the US since former president Donald Trump annulled the nuclear deal. Iran became a pariah among the Western nations, in particular at the behest of Washington’s inexplicable decision.

Without question, EU and other Western states bow to Washington’s hegemony over the rest of the international community, particularly its opponents.

But this case is perhaps illustrated more clearly by the swift banning of the Russian sport from Fifa and the Uefa, the European football body. Since the war in Ukraine started, which Moscow describes as a Special Military Operation, Russian football teams and athletes have been barred from competing in competitions for nothing of their own doing.

This is the trouble when sport is dragged into politics by the self-serving politicians. Only athletes suffer, for no sins of their own. Gone are the days when the sport was jealously kept out of the realm of politics. The idea was to protect the athletes. Not any more.

Multisport events such as the BRICS Games therefore are much more than mere competition in the sporting field. They mitigate against some of the unjustifiable geopolitical outcomes that are harmful to the careers and livelihood of many athletes.

In the case of football, the club owners are also kicked out of business by geopolitical outcomes not of their making. And then, sadly, no organisation in the international community speaks for the beleaguered athletes from sanctioned countries such as Russia and Iran, for instance.

At best, the athletes themselves attempt to speak out, highlighting their plight. But even the stigma of being labelled in negatives terms by western-controlled international sporting bodies discourages affected athletes from waging spirited fights for their right.

In a way, the BRICS Games thus offer a much-needed break for the isolated athletes who have done no wrong.

Having kept themselves fit by continuously sticking to their daily exercise regime, spending a lot of time in the gym all the while, the annual BRICS Games offer athletes an opportunity to test their worth against others – in a friendly environment where no one is judged and condemned on the basis of the politics of their governments.

I am particularly pleased by the fact that a host nation of the BRICS Games has the opportunity to showcase the culture and custom of their country. In a nutshell, the Games offer an opportunity to sell oneself.

Government departments such as tourism, sporting, arts, culture and foreign affairs, among others, play a leading role in showcasing a country’s identity and way of life.

By extension, this offers an opportunity for future tourism, when visitors could visit again later in life, thereby boosting tourism activities and national revenue of a country.

I am elated that among the many programmes that BRICS have, the leaders also found it fitting to establish the annual Games. Looking further to the future, the leadership of BRICS could perhaps propose to extend the invitation to participate to a host of other non-BRICS members.

That would transform the Games into truly international in a way that will enhance the reputation and stature of the BRICS Games.

As things stand, there are more than 40 countries that have applied to join BRICS. The appetite was first seen during the BRICS Summit in South Africa in 2023 when dozens of countries applied to join the bloc, but only six could be accepted at that point.

There is a huge opportunity for BRICS to serve as bedrock of the interests of the entire global South. As I have argued previously, BRICS must not miss the opportunity to become a force to reckon with.

More and more, they must start to speak regularly in one voice, issuing statements on international affairs. They need to take a leaf from such organisations as the G7, which meticulously champions the objectives and interests of the wealthy Western nations and the rest of the global North.

The G7 never misses an opportunity to issue joint statements on matters of common interest to the body. It is a lesson, I submit, that BRICS must learn and implement.

That will make the rest of the world take note of the importance of BRICS, and in particular its relevance. Only BRICS can position itself as a truly strategic bloc, impactful in geopolitics and a recognisable power in international relations.

I have no iota of doubt in my mind that handled well, the BRICS Games has a huge potential to catapult the bloc into a player of note in world affairs.

* Makoe is Founder and Editor-in-Chief: Global South Media Network