By Erin Drushel
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics: Everyone’s invited… but check your protests at the door.
The Olympic Games are not only about demonstrating national pride and prowess, but stand as a symbol that the world is capable of coming together in a common cause. Call me an idealistic sap if you will, but for me, it’s a glimpse of what world peace looks like.
The Olympics should be about athletes, not politics. But when you host an event in the spotlight of the world stage, inevitably the voices of the world will speak out. Although this is hardly a new phenomenon, perhaps the multiple issues surrounding Sochi are shining an even brighter spotlight (interrogation lamp?) on these Games compared to others in recent memory.
Between the apparent flouting of human rights, the not-so-crafty attempts to publicly manage anti-gay sentiments, the sky-rocketing costs, the suicide bombings within the country, a heightened public fear of terrorist attacks, and no snow – Sochi has become a hotbed of drama.
Calls for boycotting the Games have arisen and there is certainly an appeal about that notion to protest the varied issues. It’s a tough call to make when the dreams and sacrifices of your country’s athletes are on the line. It doesn’t seem as though anyone will officially boycott, so that decision will be up to each individual. And whatever anyone’s personal decision might be I’m a firm believer that you can “support the troops” while “protesting the war”.
With all of the issues surrounding the 2014 Games, perhaps we have an opportunity to reassess the locality of the Olympics for years to come.
Clearly, being chosen as the host for the Olympics is a much sought after honour. An opportunity to wave the country’s flag and demonstrate to the world the desirability of your nation. And the local economic booster potential from the influx of athletes, their staff and fans from around the world is nothing to scoff at either.
But short term gain often comes with costly long-term consequences. (As an example, the 1976 Montreal Games…they just finished paying off their debt in 2006).
The other night my husband and I were discussing this very problem. He proposed choosing two permanent locations for the Summer and Winter Olympics. He suggested Greece as the home for the Summer Games, and possibly Switzerland – or somewhere known for having snow year-round – for the Winter Games.
At first I viewed the proposition with some resistance; the pull of national pride when the Games are in Canada was very apparent. But upon reflection, this idea makes perfect sense. So, I put my mind to the problem.
For the Summer Games: The Ancient Greeks gifted the world with the Olympic Games. For historical reasons, it is the logical choice. Not only that, Greece seems to be the “weakest link” in the European Union and the financial stability and job creation likely to result from having the permanent home of the Olympics would hopefully help secure some sense of stability in the region.
For the Winter Games: Somewhere with snow year-round is a must. Switzerland makes sense for the terrain and locale, but also because it is commonly viewed as the most neutral country by the rest of the world. The political protestations that come with many other host countries would lessen (bearing in mind people will always use the world stage as a way to raise awareness of world issues).
Costs: Now, this wouldn’t mean that Greece and Switzerland would bear full responsibility for the costs of building and upkeep. No. All participating nations would be financially responsible for the creation and maintenance of both locations, with the IOC as the overseer. You don’t pay your fair share, then you don’t participate. Sharing the costs across the board will make it attainable for everyone.
So what to do about national pride? Being the host nation is the ultimate opportunity to show off the best of what your country has to offer. (There’s no doubt this is important, especially considering I wear my maple leaf on my sleeve).
My solution: Continue to give participating countries the opportunity to be the “host” of the Olympics. They would conduct both the opening and closing ceremonies to demonstrate the beauty of their respective nations, and also would be the managers/directors for that year’s Games. Not only would this plan continue the current traditions, but would also help enable those countries who are often denied the opportunity to host due to their own economic roadblocks.
Maybe it’s me dreaming big again, but considering the rising costs and a world of protests, this seems like the most sensible approach to me.
And really, what better way to create a shared community that truly embodies the spirit of the Olympic Games.
– Erin Drushel