Welcome to the International Army Games 2016! Held in both Russia and Kazakhstan from July 30 to August 13, it isn’t new. The competition started under the former Soviet Union in the 1980s, but it was a private party, back then. And when the union collapsed, so did the games.
At least till last year, when Russia revived the event as an internationally explosive spectacle. Literally! According to Russian Defense Minister Sergey Kuzhugetovich Shoygu, the games were designed to train the different branches of the Soviet military.
But because its revival attracted a lot of international attention, they decided to go global. And since last year’s games also increased the tourist influx into Russia, they realized they were onto something good.
Not all thought so, however. Of the 47 countries invited (including the US), only 19 accepted. Except for Greece, all other NATO members declined Russia’s invitation to participate.
Party poopers aside, more than 3,000 military personnel attended, representing Asia, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Eleven other non-participating countries sent reps to the games, since the event is also a great way to advertise weapons tech.
They kicked it off with a tank biathlon competition – a sort of obstacle course with tanks (which Russia won). There were also demonstrations of fighter jets, battleships, rocket launchers and more, as well as various military disciplines which included snipers.
Overall, 121 teams got to strut their stuff in 23 events to an awed crowd of spectators. As China is the new rising superpower, they couldn’t resist participating in 22. Only Russia competed in all, and though Kazakhstan co-hosted the games, they only joined in 21.
And you can’t beat the event names, which include “Keys to the Sky” – a competition showing off air defense missile skills. But lest you think it’s all about killing, other events include the “Military Medical Relay Race” and the “Field Kitchen” competition.
Shoygu is quick to point out, however, that it’s not just about winning. It’s about engendering a spirit of comradeship… yes, “comradeship.”