THIS October – “die mooiste, mooiste maand”, to borrow from an Afrikaans poem that loosely translated means “the most beautiful, beautiful month” – South Africa will host the BRICS Games 2023 as part of enhancing co-operation among members of the strategic bloc.
It won’t be just about the games. It will be much more. The BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) recently captured the imagination of the international community when they held the 15th BRICS Summit in Sandton.
The most notable takeaway from the summit’s Johannesburg Declaration was the resolution to expand the membership of BRICS by six more nations – effective from January next year.
The six new members are Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Egypt and Ethiopia. The move sparked great debate in geopolitical circles.
The identity of the new members, the total number of additions, what they bring to BRICS, the growing global impact and effect of BRICS Plus place BRICS at the centre of international speculation about the role of the organisation in geopolitics.
The inaugural BRICS games were held in Goa, India, in 2016 and were followed in 2017 at Guangzhou in China.
The two nations also held the games in 2021 and 2022 respectively. Led by the BRICS nations’ ministers of sport, the games are hosted by the current holder of the rotational chair of the bloc.
South Africa is the current chair and has already hosted the game-changing 15th BRICS Heads of State Summit. Next year, Russia will host the games in Kazan from June 20 to 23.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who participated in the recently passed summit virtually following the controversy over the ICC warrant for his arrest with regard to the Ukraine conflict, will host the expanded BRICS heads of state summit in his country.
Universally, sport is heralded as an agency of unification for diverse groups of people irrespective of their race, language, culture, religion or political persuasion, among others.
Notably, sport is regarded as an effective vehicle in the enhancement of people-to-people diplomacy. It is particularly more important in the current era of globalisation, where the world has become increasingly interdependent and interconnected.
The BRICS Games take a particularly strategic position as an agency for social cohesion among the member-states of the bloc. Sport, arts, and culture are integral parts of a recipe for international cooperation.
The leadership of BRICS Plus is often reluctant to lay their cards on the table all facing up. International relations scholars largely concur in that the BRICS Plus bloc poses a direct challenge to the entire US-led Western hegemony.
More closely, BRICS Plus is regarded as a major threat to the domineering position that has been occupied for way too long by the G7 – a group of the world’s wealthiest nations that represent the ideological interests of the global north.
In short, BRICS Plus is seen in international relations as an antithesis of the world’s Western domination.
It is a home for the bulk of the relatively less-developed nations of the global south. China, Russia, and India are regarded as the mainstay of the new, emerging international world order.
The inclusion of the key oil-producing countries in BRICS Plus is seen as a stroke of genius. Already, following the expansion of the bloc from only five to 11 members, BRICS Plus is home to countries responsible for the production of a whopping eighty percent of the world’s oil output.
Not only that: BRICS Plus has been rather vocal about the so-called “de-dollarisation” process. This is a move where all members have resolved to dump the US dollar as a preferred currency when transacting among and between the BRICS Plus members.
Moves are afoot to establish a new counter currency to the US dollar that can be unleashed in the international markets as a “new alternative” of preference.
The emergence of the China-based New Development Bank – better known as the BRICS Bank, directly challenges the long-time dominance of the US-led lenders, the World Bank and the IMF (International Monetary Fund).
The BRICS Games are not seen as a replacement of any global games, be they continental, global or regional – Olympics, athletics, or soccer games.
Instead, the BRICS Games provides an opportunity for the member-states to foster closer cooperation, get to know each other better, and open pathways for increased and visible public diplomacy among BRICS Plus members.
Through the BRICS Games, educational opportunities have been punted as one of the many spin-offs. The national leagues in the BRICS Plus nations will also accentuate their cooperation through club-to-club or team-to-team relationships that could see increased exchange programmes as part of the people-to-people diplomatic programme.
The arrival of the many participants of the BRICS Plus nations to South Africa or any host will also enhance the ample opportunities found in the tourism industry.
The move will impact positively in the short-to-medium term job creation opportunities thereby decreasing unemployment in the more challenged members of the bloc.
The BRICS Games offer therefore a unique platform to do much more than just play sport.
Instead, through sport as a healthy living imperative, the BRICS Games are set to create a rare feel-good environment that brings with it a plethora of opportunities for individuals, groups, and communities alike to better their lives at home whilst collectively waking up to the need to face geopolitical challenges as a diverse bloc spurred on by unity of purpose.
Until BRICS Plus emerged, the entire global south lacked a coherent vehicle behind which many could climb for either salvation or survival.