New New SingaporeLaunched seven years ago as an annual military sports event in Russia, the International Army Games has found staunch supporters among several Asian nations, who eagerly open their firing ranges and training grounds to foreign servicemen competing for trophies. The number of competitions has risen to 34, of which China runs three, Vietnam two, Iran three, Armenia, Qatar, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan one each. Even though Russia still hosts the majority (16), it now provides only 11 firing ranges and training grounds out of 23 in total.

Typically, the ARMY GAMES stretch for two weeks. Service personnel representing their national armed forces try to outdo others in skills in a given warfare discipline, military equipment operation, field repair and managing an emulated situation. This year’s event attracted over 5,000 participants in 277 national teams. These are just those taking part in the sports, not counting many more of their colleagues in 42 countries arranging and running the competitions and supporting their teams as fans and viewers.

The launch of a large-scale military competition was the brainchild of the Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu. He does not hide his satisfaction at the substantial growth in all figures and parameters in what is sometimes called the “War Olympics”. Back in 2015 it was almost a national event with only a small amount of foreign participation, but the following year 19 independent states collectively sent 3,500 servicemen to compete in 23 events. In 2017 China obliged with hosting six more and helped bring the number of participating armies to 28. The next year co-organiser countries amounted to 7, and, later, 10-12.

The figure could have been bigger if not for the COVID19 pandemic which made some countries cancel competitions they had sought to run. For instance, Mongolia called off invitations to the “Equestrian Marathon” for mounted units to test their skills in navigating in a desert, controlling horses and firing when in the saddle.

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