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The Big Picture: Opening ceremony of International Army Games

Dancers perform on the back of a T-72B3 tank at the opening ceremony of the 2021 International Army Games at the Alabino military training ground near Moscow.

Dancers perform on the back of a T-72B3 tank at the opening ceremony of the 2021 International Army Games at the Alabino military training ground near Moscow. Photograph: Photo: Sergei Fadeichev/TASS/Getty Images.

The annual event – dubbed the War Olympics – is organised by Russia’s defence ministry and involves teams from the armed forces of countries on friendly terms with the Kremlin taking part in military-themed contests.
This year’s is the seventh instalment of the games and features 5,000 military personnel from 44 countries – among them, China and Iran – competing for medals in 34 disciplines covering almost every aspect of combat.

One of the most dramatic contests – considered the games’ blue ribbon event – is the tank biathlon, which sees rival crews race their vehicles around a course while firing at targets. Russia has won the tank biathlon gold medal at every games thus far.

The events take place at several locations around Russia and in other countries. For instance, a ‘seaborne assault contest’ is being held at the far eastern port of Vladivostok, which is also hosting the Sea Cup – in which warships compete in firing at targets.

Meanwhile, a ‘depth’ competition for military divers and ‘clear sky’ contest for air defence units will be held in Iran and China respectively.

The event coincides with Russia’s largest weapons and military technology exhibition and is a major opportunity for the country to promote its defence industry and cement relations with other states.

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