Putin can no longer use sports as a propaganda tool

The Russian sports boycott of Vladimir Putin has been hit hard. He is a former judo champion and an ice hockey enthusiast. Major events, such as the World Cup or the Winter Games in Sochi, served his system.


The International Judo Federation stripped Vladimir Putin (69) of his title as honorary president this week. Symbolically reliable: judo is the sport with which Putin has the greatest connection and with which he has been awarded a black belt. Russian sources tell how he began this sport at the age of eleven. His coach Anatoly Rachlin had to convince his parents that judo is not dangerous. Putin was not an exceptional talent, but he possessed the mentality of winning in abundance. He was crowned judo champion in Leningrad at the age of 21. “On the carpet, it was a tiger that fought until the last moment,” Rachlin said.

Later, Putin regularly showed his passion for judo and other martial arts. Children in Russia can become proficient in sports with the booklet Learn judo with Putin And educational videos with Putin. As chief, he has appeared in international judo events and demonstrated his skills against competing partners. During a visit to a Japanese sports center in 2000, a Japanese student managed to hit him. Experts have questioned whether Putin is really that great.

During his presidency, Putin has surrounded himself with the judo men of yesteryear. Sparring partner Viktor Zolotov was the head of his personal security for thirteen years. Igor Sidorkevich, the former head of the Saint Petersburg Judo Federation, became the commander of the Military Police. For Putin, the merits of judo match his challenging image as a world leader. “Judo is ideal for knowing the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent,” Putin said.

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Skating at a late age

The second sport he has in his heart is ice hockey. Putin is a fan of Sportivny Kloeb Armii, the “military club” in his home city of Saint Petersburg that has big money from Gazprom. Putin was already in his late fifties when he learned to skate. The famous hockey player Alexei Kasatonov helped him as a coach. “I learned to skate while holding a chair,” Putin said.

Putin during an ice hockey match.photo news photo

The intense course has paid off: in recent years, Putin has kicked off festive matches of the Night Ice Hockey League in Sochi. Putin scored his goals alongside former Russian stars. Although in 2019 he fell right in the face during the lap of honor due to inattention. Putin shares his love of ice hockey with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Lukashenko also likes to share pictures of him playing soccer, ice hockey or skating.

Although Putin’s heart beats a lot more for ice hockey, in his eyes football shouldn’t be the most popular sport to appease the Russian people. In addition to the Winter Games in Sochi in 2014, awarding Russia the 2018 FIFA World Cup was seen as the most important tool that Putin used to glorify his regime.

Putin himself supports Zenit Saint Petersburg. Putin was criticizing the national team a year before the 2018 World Cup. “The fans expect better results,” he said after a run of fifteen matches with only three victories. “Footballers have to try to win like real fighters.” In the same year, Putin did not spare his criticism of his club Zenit. “In Zenit, eight foreigners play in the European League, well done,” he said lightly as he prefers a Russian-skinned team.

Fisherman, diver, racer

Putin liked to promote his sports image with pictures or videos. Skating was also one of the president’s favorite hobbies. In 2010, he was behind the wheel of a Renault to participate in the Formula 1 circus with high mediation. He achieved speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour on a circuit in Saint Petersburg. “Not bad for the first time,” Putin said. The president put his shoulders down in the F1 race in Russia. Sochi has been on the calendar since 2014, although this year it was canceled this year.

Moreover, Putin showed his passion for outdoor sports. Putin as a fisherman, Putin as a diver, and Putin as a hard-to-bark knight: all this went through the review.

When it was convenient for Putin, like after the corruption controversy over the allocation of the World Cup, he wanted to separate sports and politics as much as possible. In practice, he used sports as a means to increase his influence in Russia and on the world stage. An astonishing number of former Russian athletes have also been elected to parliament, including tennis player Marat Safin, chess player Anatoly Karpov or Olympic figure skating champion Irina Rodnina.

So sport has always been at the heart of Putin’s rule to gain popularity. By the same logic, the boycott now strikes at the heart of Putin and the heart of the Russian people.

Amber Webster

 "Freelance zombie fanatic. Devoted web advocate. Analyst. Writer. Coffee fanatic. Travelaholic. Proud food aficionado."

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