The Winter Olympics in Sochi kick off with an opening ceremony this Friday evening. Some commentators criticise the billions that have been spent on sports facilities and infrastructure. Others see it as positive that the Games have drawn attention to the state of human rights in Russia
Olympic Games sell-off
This year’s Olympic Games are proof for the left-liberal daily Delo (Slovenia) that money rules these days:
Sochi is a kind of climax of the story that began at the Winter Games in Sarajevo in 1984, when money changed the Winter Olympics forever. However the Games in Sochi turn out, they are doubtless a recipe for the near future of the Olympic movement. Under the leadership of the IOC, big capital, whether private or state-owned, will take control of cities and regions. When we hear Western citizens, and above all the Americans, complaining in Sochi about the outrageously expensive investments, all we need do is take a quick look around. The names of the huge hotels say it all: Mariott, Radisson, Park Inn.
Influence the Olympics through sponsors
The International Olympic Committee is unable to influence the human rights policy of host countries, so consumers should put pressure on the Olympic sponsors with their purchasing decisions, the tabloid Aftonbladet (Sweden) writes:
When the Russian law against ‘homosexual propaganda’ was passed, Human Rights Watch called on the sponsors of the Games to distance themselves from the legislation, so as to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee. The sponsors didn’t listen to the organisation, and are now facing a PR disaster.
… Criticising the IOC is of little use, since it lacks a democratic structure. It’s already regrettable enough that apparently only sponsors have the power to further human rights. For that reason we must make it clear that many of us don’t want to buy the products of companies that indirectly support brutal regimes.
Great concern over attacks
With the start of the Winter Olympics in Sochi a large-scale security operation also gets underway today, the business paper Hospodářské Czech Republic (Czech Republic) noviny writes, pointing to the widespread concerns about potential attacks:
Critics of the International Olympic Committee ask what its members were thinking when they gave the Games to Sochi and not to the Austrian city of Salzburg, for example. Not only were they putting them in a sub-tropical climate but also in the immediate vicinity of the latent conflict between Russia and the radical Islamists in the Caucasus. The terrorist attacks carried out in December in Volgograd and the current threats against some of the participating teams prove the critics right.
… Since Munich in 1972, all Olympic Games have been potential targets for attack. However the Games in Sochi will be even more problematic.The closing ceremony will take place on the very day that marks the 70th anniversary of the start of the brutal Stalinist deportation of the Chechen and Ingush people from the Caucasus to the republics of Central Asia
Human rights more important than sports event
The Winter Games in Sochi have become a symbol for human rights, the left-liberal daily De Morgen (Belgium) writes:
Human rights organisations have led one of the most successful campaigns of recent years in connection with the games – for freedom of speech for the women of Pussy Riot and against the draconian measures adopted against the Russian press, the anti-gay laws and the unbelievable violence against homosexuals. Many people in the world have woken up and are defending the principle of equality.
… Let’s not fool ourselves: President Putin has never shown much respect for democratic freedoms and the right of adults over 18 to free sexual expression, and he won’t say at the opening ceremony today that he’s changed his mind. But the free world has sent a powerful message. It has embarked irrevocably on the path to equal opportunities and rights, and will defend this path to the end.
Putin’s one man show
Corrupt sports officials are ruining the spirit of the Olympics, the regional daily Le Berry Républicain (France) complains:
Sooner or later the famous Olympic motto: ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ will have to be updated. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to replace it with ‘costlier, crazier, crueller’. This isn’t the first time sports have served as a propaganda tool for regimes that are trying to pass themselves off as acceptable, but [Sochi] takes the cake. The worst culprits in all this are the officials at the IOC and Fifa, who are more receptive to the ‘attentions’ of corrupt candidate countries than the interests of the athletes they represent.
… Putin’s Olympic Games will cost twice as much as the Beijing Summer Olympics.
… What will the Russians get from all this? Never was a global sporting event so dependent on the will of a single man, who will use them as an opportunity to flex his muscles.