Among its many immediate costs, Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is having consequences around the world in cultural arenas that are usually (mostly) apolitical. Sports and the arts cannot stay above the fray.
In just the first few days of Russia’s attack on its neighbor, the world of athletics has been shaken. Europe’s Champions League has moved its final from St. Petersburg to Paris. The Formula 1 Grand Prix scheduled for Sochi in September has been canceled. Manchester United has terminated its sponsorship deal with Russian airline Aeroflot. The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has canceled World Cup 2023 qualifying matches involving Russia and Belarus, and World Cup skiing events due to take place in Russia have been tabled.
Meanwhile in the arts, the Eurovision Song Contest has banned Russia from participating this year. At the other end of the music spectrum, Russian conductor Valery Gergiev was suddenly out of his planned Carnegie Hall appearances with the Vienna Philharmonic. Gergiev is a friend of Putin’s and has been a prominent supporter of the Russian leader; now his positions at both the Munich Philharmonic and the Rotterdam Philharmonic are tenuous at best.
Let’s not forget the arts scene in Ukraine itself, where, for example, film and TV production is skidding to a halt. The same goes for Russia, where, among many other protests, Elena Kovalskaya has quit her position as head of Moscow’s state-run theater, calling Putin a “killer.”
Expect many more cancellations, relocations, and other impacts on the worlds of sports and the arts as Putin pursues his agenda of deadly aggression in Ukraine.