22 July 2019, Monday, 9:44
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Ceremony After Execution

24
IRYNA KHALIP

Who needs these “hungry games”?

There has long been a superstition in Belarus: in the view of some big sport you should expect executions. On June 21, the II European Games open in Minsk. Meanwhile, last week, two death sentences were executed. Two more people are waiting for execution in the death convicts' cell: the Supreme Court upheld their sentences also on the eve of the European Games. The same was before the Ice Hockey World Championship in 2014 - two people were shot right before the opening ceremony. Why, the holiday turned out so pompous though!

However, the scale of the European Games is also doubtful, although in the last six months in Minsk all state-owned media have reported about their readiness to host the games as often as the Soviet radio once broadcasted newsletters about the health of Comrade Stalin.

Students are evicted from hostels and forcibly recorded as volunteers for the games (sorry for the unwitting oxymoron), private business is taxed with additional dues, the budget money for organizing the opening and closing ceremonies for some reason goes to Igor Krutoy, the police learn how to say without an accent “Vasya, read this asshole his rights ”- in general, the ordinary life of a totalitarian state on the eve of a big sporting event. And of course, all the shops and gas stations are showered with souvenirs depicting the mascot of the games - the Fox Lesik, which is an exact copy of the famous Internet meme, with a prosaic name Stoned Fox. And of course, Aliaksandr Lukashenka, who by the number of appearances in public with statements about the games, has already bypassed that fox, convincing the Belarusians that only with these games they will live on.

Sounds ominous.

Meanwhile, Belarusians do not care. They do not understand what kind of bullshit it is, because of which they are being driven to community work days for improvement, deprived of bonuses that go to pay for sports dues, and why the prices raise. Moreover, $ 120 million of budget money has already gone to the Directorate of the European Games. And there’s nothing to watch there, as it turned out.

The program of the European Games-2019 - a total of 15 sports. And the most popular game types in the program are missing. Only 3x3 basketball and beach football will be presented in Minsk. From water sports - only rowing. More - wrestling and gymnastics, ping pong and badminton. Beach games basically. Nothing that drives the fans to the stands, or chains the viewers to the screens, and allows to sell broadcasts around the globe.

Except for track-and-field athletics. However, in September, the World Championships in Doha will be held, and this will be a much more important event for both athletes and their fans. Although holding a championship in Doha, where slaves work in the construction of sports facilities, who have their passports taken away and more than 1,200 who died at the construction site, is probably of the same moral character as the European Games in Minsk accompanied with the shooting of the lethal pistol.

Don’t start talking about Asian and African games that have long existed. It is not necessary that sports fans miss the four years between the Olympics. Do not hide behind athletes whom it will help to get qualification points for Tokyo 2020. Let's be honest: this event is only indirectly related to sports. The European Games have two main components: corruption and propaganda.

They were invented by Patrick Hickey - head of the European Olympic Committees - in 2011. Then he held a meeting of the EOK Executive Committee in Minsk and announced that it was here that the first European Games would be held. To be honest, I found out about that meeting only eight years later, when I wanted to figure out where this holiday of life came from. In 2011, neither I nor my friends and colleagues simply knew about it - we all either were in prisons, or stood in lines with parcels. All the major Belarusian officials, including sports officials, were under the EU sanctions at that time, so the meeting was virtually silent: meeting with Lukashenka was considered a bad tone. True, the Belarusian television did air a news piece, where Lukashenka told how Belarus would fight for the right to host the first European Games, and Hickey said about how he rejoices every time he comes to Belarus. And yet - that the West needs to take an example from Belarus, where all sports federations are headed by major officials and therefore the authorities do not need to interfere in the sport - they already control it. What a miraculous coincidence: there are mass repressions in the country, which naturally caused a financial crisis; the local currency fell in price three times, as well as the salaries of the Belarusians; all official contacts with Europe are frozen; all bureaucracy and big business suspected of financing the regime, are under sanctions. And suddenly there is an Irish sports official who comes up with a new project and promises to bring all of Europe here. There is no such coincidence. Seems like a too pretty combination.

However, there wasn’t enough money in Belarus so it couldn’t play games with all ambitions. And then Hickey asked Azerbaijan to help in a friendly way. And since the phrase “not enough money” could be seen there, except in the dictionary of foreign words, Ilham Aliyev agreed to hold this strange event at home. And he organized it in a royal fashion in 2015: the budget of the first European games was 1.2 billion dollars, and only the opening ceremony at which Lady Gaga sang was worth 95 million.

As for the second games, they could not put it anywhere for a long time. Holland initially agreed, but quickly refused. Then the same Hickey offered to hold the games in Russia, and it agreed, but the doping scandal stood in the way. Yes, and Patrick Hickey was arrested during the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on suspicion of illegal sale of tickets. He was then charged with fraud, tax evasion and money laundering and sent under house arrest in Ireland for health reasons.

Without Hickey, the European Games gained orphan status and became a ballast, which had to either be quietly dumped into the sea, or put at least somewhere under any conditions. So they did - with the condition that Belarus is exempted from the contribution of 20 million euros, which according to the statute a country must pay for the right to host the games.

And now Aliaksandr Lukashenka is the godfather of the king, who generously saved the perishing sports project. He can afford executions on the eve of the opening, because he is the savior of the European Games, the patron of sports and a great friend of the children.

By the way, he invited Patrick Hickey to Minsk. And Irish Sports Minister Shane Ross wrote a letter to the games executive: you are free to invite anyone you want, just keep in mind that Hickey is not representing Ireland, but only himself.

So from the very beginning, apparently, he was inventing all this exclusively for himself. Meanwhile, he successfully persuaded totalitarian post-Soviet leaders to buy beads and glass mirrors under the guise of large international projects. Do you remember at least one winner of the first European games? Not Lady Gaga, but the winner in at least one sport? .. Do not be shy - nobody remembers them. I assure that from the second European games even such memories will not remain. Or maybe that “Stoned Fox” Lesik will become yet another meme.

Irina Khalip, Novaya Gazeta