A gold medalist will be unable to defend their title in 2022
November 12, 2021 by Ned Garvey in News with 0 comments
With both the World Ultimate Club Championships and World Beach Ultimate Championships taking place in the United States next summer, no Russian teams will be able to participate. It’s particularly disappointing to see the current beach world champions in the women’s division miss out.1 Why can’t they come?
Geopolitics gets in the way of ultimate
As of now, it’s nearly impossible for any Russian passport holders to obtain an American visa, except under extenuating circumstances. A statement on the American Embassy of Moscow’s website reads:
U.S. Embassy Moscow no longer offers non-diplomatic visa services due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification prohibiting the U.S. Embassy Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Russian nationals may continue applying for non-immigrant visas at any U.S. embassy or consulate where they can obtain an appointment.
The U.S. State Department has added Russia to its list of so-called “homeless” nations. That is, a country in which the United States has no consular representation. The list also includes: Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, and now the Russian Federation. The U.S. diplomatic presence in Russia has shrunk from roughly 1,200 in 2017 to 120 today. The United States used to operate consulates in St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg, and Vladivostok, in addition to the embassy in Moscow. All three consulates have suspended operations or been ordered closed by the Russian government.
Russian officials would point to the fact that Russian consulates in the United States have also been ordered shut, and the fact that the United States, whose staff quota, as of April 30, 2021, sat at 455, could bring more staff to the country if they chose to.
While diplomats from both countries are discussing the situation, no solution has been reached.
What this means for Russian players
Ultimately, it means that traveling to the United States at the current moment is functionally impossible.
Russians have to seek visas abroad. The U.S. embassy recommends that Russians travel to Warsaw to apply for visas, but they can apply anywhere they can maintain a physical presence. However, appointments and interviews at American embassies are notoriously hard to come by and generally need to be booked many months in advance. Receiving an American visa is also by no means guaranteed, and WFDF is unable to provide any official help or documentation to players seeking to play in world championship events.
According to the Polish government, all travelers who have not been vaccinated with a vaccine which has been granted a marketing authorization within the European Union are subject to a 10-day quarantine. The Russian vaccine, Sputnik-V, is not currently authorized for use in the EU. Thus, most people traveling from Russia would be subject to a 10-day quarantine that would have to be completed before the date of their appointment.
If a player manages to jump those hurdles and obtain an American visa, they would then have to get [re-]vaccinated with a CDC-approved jab (i.e. not Sputnik-V).
One Russian player estimates that the cost of attending one tournament in the United States in 2022 would be between $4000-$5000 per person. For comparison, the average monthly salary in Moscow is around $1,100, and the average monthly salary in Russia as a whole is approximately $800.
WFDF’s Managing Director of Events and Operations Karina Woldt told Ultiworld, “WFDF operates a strong and strict non-discrimination policy and therefore always wants to see all WFDF member organizations have unlimited and full access to attend any WFDF sanctioned event, subject to the WFDF bid allocation procedures.” Woldt continued to explain that WFDF has no influence on geopolitical happenings or cross-border travel due to pandemic restrictions.
Woldt explained why WFDF cannot aid players in getting visas to the United States. “WFDF does not have the resources to help individuals obtain visas and we do not have the ability to offer individual surety letters or letters of guarantee,” she said. “Per the information published in the bulletins for each event, WFDF has always been able to issue an ‘event registration certification letter’ for any teams or players who request support in their visa application process. While this doesn’t solve the problem of non-recognized vaccines or inability to book visa application meetings, it is a service we will continue to offer to any fully registered team, player, or official of any nationality or citizenship for any WFDF event.”
Finally, Woldt mentioned why WFDF is going forward with events in 2022 when some countries cannot attend: “When we established the schedule for 2022 events, we were aware that there might be lingering travel restrictions due to COVID-19 protocols and, even at this stage, we remain hopeful that travel restrictions will continue to be lifted and that fewer countries will continue to restrict cross-border travel. We made the decision that it was better to host the championships in 2022 for the players and teams that would be able to attend, instead of waiting until the world fully opened up, since the timing is so uncertain.”
Russia Women were the only team to break the US stranglehold on gold medals in 2017 ↩