President Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarch, Alisher Usmanov, rules the International Fencing Federation as a de facto monarchy. He threatens legal action against anyone who opposes him. “It’s about fear and the union’s financial dependence,” says Finnish swordsman Niko Vuorinen in an interview with HS.
When most international sports federations have condemned Russia’s actions in the war of aggression in Ukraine, there is still at least one organization running counter-current.
The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has found itself in a situation where it is virtually dependent on funding from an individual oligarch.
Russian chairman of FIE Ališer Usmanov through his foundation he finances the Fencing Alliance with sumptuous sums.
In 2020 alone, he funded the union with about five million Swiss francs, about 5.5 million euros. In the self-employed’s annual budget, this meant 93%.
In 2019, the Fencing Association had its own income of 833,000 Swiss francs, or even then about 83 percent of the funding was based on donations from Usmanov.
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gives the sports so-called Olympic money, which amounted to FRF 3.75 million a year for fencing.
At best, however, more than half of the international fencing money comes from a single man. In practice, Usmanov keeps the international federation completely at bay.
So far, Usmanov has abstained from the union but has no intention of resigning. According to his own press release, he expects “justice to happen”.
Usmanov belongs to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin to the core circuit and is one of his favorite oligarchs. Usmanov has strongly supported the Putin regime since the 2014 occupation of Crimea.
Billionaire Usmanov is on the Western sanctions list. On Thursday, German authorities seized his $ 600 million luxury yacht.
“The situation is unsustainable and irrational.”
Finnish swordsman Niko Vuorinen according to the situation is alarming. If Usmanov withdraws his money, the International Federation will be in serious financial trouble, perhaps even on the verge of bankruptcy.
“The situation is unsustainable and irrational. It’s hard to imagine that Usmanov will be able to make transfers of five million francs on the sanctions list, ”says Vuorinen on the phone from his internship in Budapest.
Presumably because of Usmanov’s status, the International Fencing Federation has not condemned or commented on Russia’s hostilities in Ukraine.
The individual sports federations – Finland and the other Nordic countries at the forefront – have instead demanded the removal of Russian athletes from the competition.
Eventually, the FIE bowed to the recommendations of the International Olympic Committee to cancel the Games in Russia and Belarus.
The FIE later added a section on the IOC’s recommendation for Russian and Belarusian athletes not to be admitted to competitions for the time being.
The self-employed did not communicate anything other than stating that “the recommendations have been implemented”. The situation in Ukraine is still not condemned or regretted.
International top swordsmen such as the Italian world champion and Olympic winner Paolo Pizzohave steadily condemned Russia’s hostilities in Ukraine.
Fencing is a marginal sport in Finland, but it is still a major Olympic sport in the world, with names for advocates.
For example, the current chairman of the IOC Thomas Bach achieved Olympic gold on the West German Foil Team in Montreal in 1976.
According to Vuorinen, the International Fencing Federation is strongly on the Russian leash.
“It’s ashamed to do sports under such an egg-free international federation,” he says.
At the World Foil Fencing World Cup in Cairo last weekend, a Belgian swordsman was banned from wearing a Ukrainian-colored cuff.
The use of cufflinks is normal, for example, in cases of grief.
“At the same time, my Ukrainian fencing friends are fighting for their lives on the front,” Vuorinen says.
Read more: Sport no longer matters to Putin, says historian: “All reputation benefits were pulled down the toilet bowl”
Samana over the weekend in Sochi, Russia, the World Cup of Women’s Fencing was held.
Western swordsmen began to protest against Ukraine in the final of the individual series and did not continue the race.
The match table practically became a hole cheese when so many gave up.
However, Russian organizers stubbornly dragged the race all the way to the semi-finals, with three Russians and one Hong Kong swordsman left.
The organizers planted the athletes for hours next to the race area. In the end, the organizers just left, nothing was said.
The race has never been officially canceled or stopped and no announcement has been made about it. The team competition was never even started.
Mountainous wonders why no FIE national affiliation has dared to demand Usmanov ‘s resignation.
“No, although it seems pretty impossible for Putin’s close associate and on the sanctions list to continue as chairman. It is about fear and financial dependence, ”says Vuorinen.
Usmanov took over the leadership of the European Fencing Association in 2005. The Finnish Fencing Association voted against the Russian.
In 2008, he rose to become president of the International Fencing Federation. Usmanov promised the union millions in support if elected.
Since then, there has been no vote on the chairman in the FIE.
“It may be that Putin is momentarily overthrowing international fencing.”
Wake up the question of how many sponsors wants to continue to support a species that does not condemn violence and agrees to continue under such leadership.
“The future of the species now looks really dark. First there was the interest rate crisis, now the budget is likely to collapse. It may be that Putin will momentarily overthrow international fencing. ”
The International Fencing Federation has no financial backers to name a few. Long-term sponsor Tissot did not continue to cooperate after the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Russian telecom operator Megafon is largely owned by Usmanov.
“Who knows what will happen to it. There are no other sponsors, ”says Vuorinen.
There are no prize money in the Fencing World Cup – so the FIE is already poor.
Without Usmanov’s tube feeding, the international activities of the species could end, as Vuorinen concludes.
“Has the world of sports been blue-eyed when it has almost unreservedly allowed itself to be placed in a situation where, at worst, an individual can pull a stick out of a wall? This is not just about fencing, although unfortunately it is especially emphasized in my sport. ”
Read more: Pressure works: Russia and Belarus still shut down from Paralympics, Kremlin upset
At least so far, Usmanov has not expressed his intentions over the fencing alliance. On the contrary, he has threatened to take legal action against him.
“It’s quite a type and a cautionary example of what can happen when funding is focused on one source independent of the sport,” says Vuorinen, who is competing in the World Cup in Budapest this weekend.
On Friday, he won all five of his qualifiers and will advance to Sunday’s finals.
The goal of the Helsinki philosophy student is still to enter the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024. The place went to the Tokyo Olympic Games, although Vuorinen made a sharp mark in the qualifiers.
How do you see the future of fencing?
“Fencing is a great sport. The problems of the umbrella organization mainly concern the racing side. Fencing itself is not going to go away, ”says Vuorinen.
“When it comes to fencing, it seems imperative that the activity be developed in a sustainable direction, one that supports itself. In principle, I believe in a better tomorrow and that solutions are found for the sport.”
Read more: Philosopher Niko Vuorinen’s dissertation is progressing steadily, as he should now sword for the Olympics: “The raw game”
Born in June 1989 in Helsinki, 32 years old.
Represents Helsinki Swordsmen.
Sixth in the European Championships in 2018.
The first Finnish man to reach the top three in the World Fencing World Cup (February 2017).
Graduated with a master’s degree in theoretical philosophy. Preparing his dissertation in Budapest.
Choice of HS Sports Delivery The Promise of the Year 2013.
In 2015, he published a book on fencing, Kalpa and Mind.
Aiming for a place at the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
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