Russia’s position at the Rio Olympic Games is still somewhat up in the air. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has yet to decide whether to allow over a hundred Russian athletes to compete in the Summer Games beginning on Friday (Aug. 5).
If the decision doesn’t go their way, Russians at least have one chance this summer to cheer on their countrymen—just with army personnel instead of amateur athletes.
Russia kicked off its International Army Games last weekend (July 30) in Kubinka, near Moscow. While these competitions reportedly happened in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, Russia has recently gone to great lengths to revive these games into an annual spectacle. This one is taking place all over Russia and in Kazakhstan, too, and will run until Aug. 13.
Russian minister of defense Sergei Shoigu said in a poorly translated statement: “A year ago we held first International Army Games designed as a form of combat training of the armed forces. They have become a bright event and a have attracted the great interest in our country and abroad.”
Over 3,000 military personnel from 19 countries are expected to take part in the games, competing in 14 disciplines and 23 competitions. Russia has reportedly invited 47 countries, including the US. Greece is the only NATO country to take part.
China’s military has a huge presence, participating in 22 competitions.
The games will include a so-called tank biathlon, where tanks navigate an obstacle course at high-speed before firing at targets. Russia won the tank biathlon last year.
Other competitions include “gunsmith master,” the “sniper frontier,” and the “keys to the sky” contest, where armies get to show off their air defense missiles.
You can watch a Russian-language webcast of the games here.