SAMARKAND: Russian President Vladimir Putin told a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) on Friday that the group should consider staging its own major sporting competition. Putin said: “There are good opportunities to intensify sports cooperation with the prospect of holding major sporting events under the auspices of the SCO. To do this, we could think about creating an association of sports organisations under our association.” Putin made clear in a speech at a summit of SCO countries in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on Friday that he wanted the group, which includes the world’s two most populous countries — China and India — to become a significant global counterweight to the American-led West, which has turned its back on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine. A Russian doping scandal, involving revelations of a state-backed system across many sports, following the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, has meant that Russian athletes’ participation at subsequent Olympics has been severely restricted. Those that have competed have only been allowed to do so under a neutral flag. China, however, has hosted both a Summer and a Winter Olympics since 2008, although both were to some extent overshadowed by war or preparation for war between Russia and former Soviet republics: Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2022. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, a close ally of Putin whose country is an observer at the SCO, told the summit: “We suggest the possibility of holding a complex of sporting competitions within the framework of the SCO: summer events in 2024, winter in 2026.” These dates broadly coincide with those of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics and the 2026 Milano-Cortina Winter Olympics — both being held in western Europe. The SCO is a security bloc established in 2001. It comprises China, Russia, India, Pakistan and four post-Soviet Central Asian states, and is in the process of admitting Iran, another state at odds with the West.