MOSCOW — Russia is bidding to host the 2023 European Games in Kazan despite a backdrop of years of doping scandals.
Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov is working with regional officials on the Kazan bid and said late Tuesday the city has “unique sports infrastructure at both the Russian and international level.”
Kazan hosted the University Games in 2013, the world swimming championships two years later, and World Cup soccer games last year. World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren later said the University Games were used as a “trial run” for the vast doping cover-up when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
McLaren accused the host nation of leading the medals table for the University Games in part because of “a defense for the Russian athletes” — cover-up orders from the sports ministry which led to eight Russian gold medalists with failed doping tests being reported as clean.
WADA lifted a suspension on Russia’s anti-doping agency in September on condition authorities handed over data and samples from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the cover-up. Russia handed over the data this month after missing an earlier deadline, and has until June 30 to provide the samples for reanalysis. If it breaks those conditions, WADA could seek to stop Russia from hosting major international sports events.
Russian President Vladimir Putin listed Kazan alongside Sochi and St. Petersburg as a potential future host of the Olympics in a 2017 interview with Olympic historian David Miller. Russia last hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980.
If Kazan is successful, it would be the third European Games in a post-Soviet country after the inaugural event in Azerbaijan in 2015 and this year’s edition in Belarus. The 2019 games were originally meant to be held in the Netherlands but the hosts dropped out in 2015, saying the event cost too much.
Despite launching in 2015 with 20 sports and a lavish opening ceremony, the European Games have struggled to attract big-name athletes. Federations in sports such as track and field, swimming and cycling have guarded their own long-running European championships and joined together to stage them simultaneously in Glasgow and Berlin last year, creating a rival to the European Games format.
The European Olympic Committees, which runs the European Games, said this month that the Polish city of Katowice had expressed interest in the 2023 event.