From June 12 to 23, Kazan will host the BRICS Games. This year, they will astonishingly elevate it to an entirely new level.

The tournament’s history is relatively short, but it’s also quite intricate. It’s still somewhat unclear from which point this story should be counted. The inaugural sports competition under the BRICS Economic Group Summit took place in India in 2016 — a football tournament. However, the tournament that took place in China the following year is officially recognized as the first Games. Three sports were featured there: basketball, volleyball, and wushu.

A distinctive aspect of the BRICS Games is the focus on national sports. In 2022, the competition in China, albeit held online, only included chess from traditional sports. Besides the grandmasters’ tournament, the program featured break dancing, wushu, lion and dragon dance, dragon boat races, jiu-jitsu, sambo, and dibeke (a blend of football and dodgeball that’s wildly popular in South Africa). The 2023 tournament in South Africa was less exotic, featuring tennis and table tennis, swimming, badminton, and beach volleyball. A rather gentlemanly assortment of familiar sports. Even Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympic movement, would likely not have objected to it. Nevertheless, the selection was evidently limited.

This year in Kazan, a breakthrough is expected in the literal sense: 30 (!) sports, with only belt wrestling and acrobatic rock’n’roll being considered exotic; over 70 participating countries and nearly 5,000 athletes. The last two numbers need some explanation. In recent years, the BRICS Group has expanded beyond these five letters, with four additional states joining the founding countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). But in any case, that’s not 70. So, the organizers decided to invite athletes from other allied nations. As a result, the tournament will ascend to an entirely new level, which is quite appropriate given the scarcity of international competitions involving Russian athletes. There is a problem, of course: the tournament is scheduled a month before the Paris Olympics, which raises questions about the participants’ lineup. Ranko Tepavcevic, the head of the Games’ organizing committee, responds to this by saying, “I would describe the participants of the largest teams — China and Brazil — as ‘the most promising.’ These are the ones who will be preparing for the next Olympic cycle and will participate in the 2028 Games. This will be a significant test for them. However, there are several countries ready to send their main squads to the BRICS Games. The fact is that for some teams, Kazan serves as a convenient base for preparing for the Paris Olympics. Therefore, these countries view Tatarstan’s capital as a location for their final training camp before the 2024 Games.”

It is certain that the Russian team will include top athletes: the swimmers will send the top members of the team, and the boxers will send the second-best, who are almost as good as the first. One of the tournament’s main stars will be Nikita Nagorny, an Olympic champion in gymnastics.