Handball European Championship 2026 is being taken away from Russia. It’s a shame, but we have something to answer

The Russian Handball Federation (RHF) has informed that the European Women’s Championship 2026 will be moved from our country . The European Handball Federation (EHF) decided to look for alternative venues for the tournament. This is another politically motivated decision by international sports organizations, which is pushing our country to organize its own competitions outside of structures affiliated with the IOC .

hard decision

Russia received the right to host the Euro 2026 in November 2021, and our application at the final stage was the only one. Then the victory in the tender was called historical, since the last major handball tournament was held in our country in 2005 – it was the women’s world championship in St. Petersburg. EURO 2026 was also supposed to be given to the city on the Neva in cooperation with Moscow. However, then the geopolitical situation changed dramatically.

“Unfortunately, today there is such a situation that Russian teams and clubs are suspended from participation in international competitions,” the FGR said in a statement. – And the current conditions do not allow timely implementation of all stages of preparation for such a major tournament. This concerns the inspection visits of the EHF representatives, the technical support of the arenas, the arrival of fans from other countries and other key operational issues.

In this regard, after consultations with the leadership of the EHF, it was decided to transfer the 2026 European Championship from Russia to another country. For the entire Russian sports and handball community, it is very difficult, because in order to get the right to organize a tournament, a lot of work has been done. We hope for understanding of fans of handball » .

Training of the Russian national handball team.
Photo by Dmitry Khristich / FGR

After Chengdu – to Yekaterinburg

After February 2022, almost all major international competitions were canceled in Russia. The most significant losses were the men’s volleyball world championship and the Summer Universiade in Yekaterinburg. Due to the postponement of the 2022 World Cup to Poland and Slovenia, our country is trying through the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to receive compensation in the amount of $76 million from the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB). But the prospects are dim, as the FIVB blames the postponement… on the Russian side.

As for the Universiade, instead of it in Yekaterinburg, from August 19 to 23, the Festival of University Sports is held. Today, Vladimir Putin officially invited young athletes from the SCO states, as well as BRICS and the CIS . Purely theoretically, all of them can go to the capital of the Urals immediately from the Chinese Chengdu. It is this city that will eventually host the Student Games from July 28 to August 8. The only difficulty is that competitions in Yekaterinburg are not on the calendar of most international federations.

Handball player Anna Vyakhireva.

Anna Vyakhireva.
Photo by Daria Isaeva, “SE”

turn the tide

Interaction with structures from the IOC system is now one of the most sensitive problems in preparation for international competitions, which Russia is going to hold in the foreseeable future. We are talking about the projects of 2024: figital Games of the Future (February 23 – March 3, Kazan), BRICS Games (June 4-18, Kazan) and Friendship Games (September 2024, Moscow). Concerned about the competition, the leader of the Olympic movement, Thomas Bach, has already called these starts “politicized”, although in our country this thesis is categorically denied.

Ambassador-at-Large of the Russian Foreign Ministry Pavel Knyazev generally stated that the BRICS Games “are not a replacement or a counterbalance, but an addition to the Olympic Games.” However, there is an important nuance to be aware of here. If all “extra starts” are held with the approval of the IOC (as, for example, at the time of the Goodwill Games), then with a high probability we will not be able to compete under our flag. And then the idea generally loses its meaning.

If we operate outside the jurisdiction of international federations, there are a lot of other problems. For example, with doping control, since using RUSADA  means going to a new round of confrontation with  WADA . Travel bans to Russia are also possible, not only from Western governments, but also from structures accountable to the IOC. In general, attempts to turn the tide with our suspension from major competitions will definitely not be easy. But this does not mean that we should sit back and humbly accept sanctions that have no end in sight.