BRICS countries – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa recently signed a ground-breaking memorandum of understanding (MoU) on sport to foster their much-needed cooperation.

The member-states of BRICS resolved to hold annual BRICS Games during which they can use the event to thrash out plans in pursuit of common goals. The games will be similar to the Commonwealth Games, except this time all participants will be equal and not answerable to, say, the Queen.

Sport is a proven vehicle of bringing people together. Sport further transcends many barriers including culture, race, language or geographic location, among others. It also fosters social coherence, although BRICS members plan to use their annual sporting games to achieve a lot more particularly in the areas of socio-political and economic cooperation. The meeting, held virtually on August 25th, was chaired by Russia, the current BRICS Chair on whose soil the inaugural games were supposed to be held this year had there been no outbreak of Coronavirus.

As a result, the inaugural games have been scheduled to take place in India next year during New Delhi’s chairmanship of the strategic bloc. The BRICS Games will be held on the margins of the BRICS Summit. This will ensure that the five-member bloc of the national emerging economies stands to leverage much more on their diverse strengths and further cement the ties that bind them.

The MoU was signed on behalf of BRICS members by each country’s minister of sport. Russia’s minister of sport, Oleg Matytsin, told the meeting that the outbreak of Covid-19 has served to emphasise the “unifying mission of sport”. Matytsin explained: “It is important to use all efforts to exchange the national experience (of individual country) in the application of effective measures to support the sports industry.” This is important. It seeks to highlight that as individual countries, BRICS members possess unique strengths from which the rest of the bloc can benefit. This is precisely why the group, founded in 2009, was projected from its inception as a global strategic partnership.

Matytsin also promised that in the light of the Russian experience and expertise in hosting sporting events of huge magnitude, Moscow will assist India’s organizing committee in putting together a spectacle for the 2021 BRICS Games.

South Africa’s Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa, congratulated the Russian Federation on registering the first-ever vaccine for coronavirus and the People’s Republic of China for commencing with the 3rd phase of clinical trials for the virus.  He added: “The BRICS games continue to enhance already existing strong diplomatic relations between BRICS nations. Through these games, athletes from the BRICS countries will exchange techniques, improve their performance, and strengthen mutual understanding and friendship, thus bringing vigour and vitality to the people-to-people exchange and cooperation among the BRICS countries.”

According to a detailed MoU, areas of cooperation are diverse. They include among others: (1) The bloc’s cooperation in the implementation of sport projects that enhance the relations between member-states, (2) The exchange of athletes, coaches and sports professionals, (3) Cooperation in the field of high-performance sport, sport for all and leisure sport.

On the anti-doping stance, the BRICS ministers of sport agreed to constantly work together and share knowledge and technology in fighting the ever-present threat of doping by athletes the world over.

They further pledged to cooperate with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and its continuous crusade against doping and also contribute meaningfully as the BRICS bloc to WADA’s new World Anti-Doping Code, which comes into effect on January 1, 2021.

The good news about the MoU is the fact that the BRICS members are doing exactly what they were established to do: To cooperate on all forms of matters of mutual interest.

This, therefore, is a truly welcome development and BRICS countries deserve great praise for pushing for closer, practical cooperation that will surely benefit their collective 42% of the world population.