Speedo ditches sponsorship of Russian Olympic champion after rally

Speedo ditches sponsorship of Russian Olympic champion after he appeared at a rally hosted by Putin while wearing a jacket with the ‘Z’ symbol

  • The backstroke star was seen with nine Russian athletes at the rally in Moscow  
  • He was wearing his two Olympic gold medals on top of a jacket with the symbol
  • The rally was held for the anniversary of Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014

Swimwear giant Speedo has ditched its sponsorship of Russian Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov after he appeared at a rally hosted by Vladimir Putin, apparently showing support for the invasion of Ukraine.

The backstroke star was seen with nine other Russian athletes at the rally in Moscow, where he was wearing his two Olympic gold medals on top of a jacket with the ‘Z’ symbol emblazoned on it. 

The letter ‘Z’ is not part of the Cyrillic alphabet, but has become a symbol of support for Russian troops.

The rally – which was seen as a morale booster for Russians as their troops faltered in Ukraine in the face of fierce resistance – was held to mark the eighth anniversary of Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Swimwear giant Speedo has ditched its sponsorship of Russian Olympic champion Evgeny Rylov after he appeared at a rally hosted by Vladimir Putin, apparently showing support for the invasion of Ukraine

The Speedo decision comes a day after the world swimming body, Fina, banned Rylov, 25, for nine months for attending the rally.

Fina said it made the decision ‘following Mr Rylov’s attendance and conduct at an event held at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow’. 

Rylov was the star of Russian swim team at the Tokyo Olympics last year, winning gold medals in the 100m and 200m. He also won silver in the 200m freestyle relay.

Rylov competed as part of the Russian Olympic Committee team, as his country was banned from the Games because of doping non-compliance. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a concert marking the 8th anniversary of Crimea’s reunification with Russia at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Fina’s decision: ‘We believe this is absolutely contrary to the ideas of sport. When the strongest (competitors) lose the opportunity to participate, this ultimately harms international federations and international competitions.’

Speedo said it will donate the fees that were due to Rylov to the United Nations body helping Ukrainian refugees. 

The company said: ‘Following his attendance at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Speedo can confirm that it has terminated the sponsorship of Evgeny Rylov with immediate effect. We condemn the war in Ukraine in the strongest possible way and stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.’

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