After a week in the spotlight, Russians stage show of sporting defiance

With state television the main source of news, accusations of email hacking and the doping of athletes are met with incredulity

A T-72 tank roared into the jump at full speed, launching several feet into the air. “Ooooohhhh!” several spectators yelled as it slammed back down so hard its gun barrel nearly hit the ground. A second T-72 followed behind, but suddenly everyone’s attention was directed behind them as strong winds ripped the metal-and-tarpaulin roof off the grandstands. The spectators climbed over the barriers to escape as rain poured down.

This was the tank biathlon, a sport devised by Russia in 2013, ostensibly to allow its own tank forces and those of other countries to test their preparedness and equipment. But it also serves as a patriotic spectacle and a show of military might held with an eye on the west. It’s part of the huge Army Games taking place across Russia and Kazakhstan, which also include competitions among jet fighters, air-defence systems, artillery and paratroopers. More than 3,000 personnel are taking part from Russia and 18 friendly countries, such as Angola, Venezuela, Serbia and several former Soviet republics.

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