The Rio Olympics kick off Friday, but Russia is already midway through its own Olympic-style competition, featuring soldiers, tanks and jets.
The competition started July 30 and will run through August 13. The games will showcase Russia’s military capabilities and glorify its service members. Participants also include Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Belarus, Venezuela, Egypt and Iran.
Forty-seven countries were invited, including the U.S. and other NATO allies. Greece was the only NATO member to send a team, which will only participate in the snipers competition, according to Russian army Lieutenant General Ivan Buvaltsev.
The competition is actually taking place in both Russia and Kazakhstan, and 23 events are scheduled for the field, air and water. The competition will feature 121 teams from Russia and 19 countries from Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, according to the Russian defense ministry. The defense ministry also noted that 11 other countries have sent representatives to watch the competition, including Germany, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.
The 23 competitions include a tank biathlon, combat jets maneuvering, and events that utilize armored vehicles. Marine officers and divers will participate in a range of water events and the medics have their own relay race. One event is titled “True Friend” and is an event for canine handlers. There are even events for military support staff such as the cooks.
The games cost Russia $91 million in 2015, and since the number of events increased for 2016, there is reason to believe that this year’s price tag will exceed $100 million, according to Newsweek. The Kremlin views the games as a good investment for a variety of reasons, as Russian military expert Igor Sutyagin explained to Newsweek.
“For many soldiers, specialists in particular, peacetime can present what we call unrealized professional syndrome. They train all their life for something and they never test their skills,” Sutyagin explains. “The games are an element of a soft-power strategy to show to closely allied state, like Belarus and Kazakhstan, that there are all these countries who are a link in the same chain,” says Sutyagin.
The Russians have put on military parades dating back to the Soviet era. It is a source of pride and a way to glorify their military strength both domestically and abroad. Russia will broadcast the war games on state television, and you can watch the games over a Russian-language webcast by clicking here.
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