SOCHI, Russia- At this point, the most reported stories leading up to the Winter Olympic games, taking place in Sochi Russia starting on February 6, center around themes of social oppression, safety threats and political tensions.
The Olympic games are supposed to symbolize the world coming together to celebrate competition through athletics and idealistically intended to heal wounds created by social and political division.
However, as a global platform that it inherently is and always has been and only exaggerated by today’s technological access and increased production value. This years Winter Games, as many of its predecessors, is shaping up to be a momentous few weeks.
Sochi is in one of the warmest places of Russia’s territory, right on the Black Sea. This is a curious decision for the Winter Games, especially in a country with no lack of cold spaces. Additionally, it has added quite a bit to the costs of the infrastructure to put the event on, making it one of the costliest in history.
Interestingly, is also precariously close to some of the main nationalist resistance movements such as the territory of Chechnya, which its separatist movements have carried out violent protests many times.
This segues into the main cause behind much of the controversy and tension leading up to the Games, as the Kremlin, and one could argue therefore Putin, namely, have imposed some very arbitrary and unilateral decisions about the Games.
Most reported has been the banning of all protests and public displays of homosexuality, yet also through incarceration and intimidation tactics essentially seeking to eliminate all forms of civil disobedience and social activism at the Games.
As the Games usually become a platform not only for the competition itself, it becomes a platform for any who can get their hands on it, whether by violent or oppressive means. The Olympics of Munich stand as a glaring example. With the world watching, it is a tantalizing and ideal opportunity for ideas and agendas to be promoted.
Slightly less on the public radar, due to a lack of coverage is the glaring inequality Sochi itself embodies now. With some of the most expensive infrastructure projects ever being completed for the games, they stand in stark contrast to the Sochi that was there before.
Primarily the inequality, displacement and poverty stories that can be found all over Sochi display the basic fault line that is being manifested by these Games.
With an estimated 18 million Russians living in poverty, the exorbitant amount spent to produce the 14 Winter Games in Vladimir Putin’s favorite playground displays in plain fashion the priorities of his government.
It also provides a fundamental choice for very participant of the Games, whether one is an athlete, spectator or activist who chooses to attend the games or an interested citizen at home. These Winter Olympics provide a fundamental choice, on the global and individual level.
What will the priorities and principles of civilization be? Do people consent by silent apathy to the oppressive and elitist polices the Sochi Games have embodied so far? Or do they make a different choice, and voice our opinion Many already have and surely more will do so as the event comes to pass.
According to John Taylor Gatto, an award winning educator, “You either learn your way towards writing your own script in life or you unwittingly become an actor in someone else’s script.”
– Tyler Shafsky
Sources: Trib Live, Nation, Al Jazeera, The Economist
Photo: The Architectural Review