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Russia’s Olympic dream

by on May 7, 2014

Russia was the host of the recent Winter Olympics. Her dubious record regarding human rights and such like was a constant distraction from the events, and the disruption in Ukraine was detrimental to Western opinions of the state. With the success of the Summer Olympics in London, it would be easy to assume that putting on this international event would be an invaluable source of soft power for the state to take advantage of. However, controversy over human rights violations and the treatment of homosexuals, cast a shadow over the proceedings that would prove impossible to move away from. Incarcerated female punk band and political activists, Pussy Riot, were released before the event, as were Greenpeace activists who had been arrested for their involvement in a protest on a Russian oil rig. This, arguably, was an attempt to reduce the volume of ammunition available to dissident voices before the event. However with such small action to try to detract from what is a litany of controversial action taken by Russia, this merely papered over the cracks.

Protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws was allowed but only in designated areas. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to clarify the position that no demonstrations were permitted except in authorised zones, as was the case in Beijing. As with China, Putins Russia has a chequered history regarding human rights and freedom of speech. However, as the IOC were prepared to support these authoritarian regimes, are the values behind this international event based on humans being the best they can be or, is it a facade with ulterior motives? The 2012 Games in London saw controversial companies such as ATOS and DOW collecting vast amounts of money, whilst any local industries brazen enough to try and benefit from the event, which disrupted their lives for years, faced trademark enforcers and draconian retaliation.

The successes of the London Olympics are a testament to how the IOC and its band of corporate brothers can manipulate the public. Although some, very little opposition was heard in the UK regarding the Games. Issues with companies such as G4S failing to perform were dealt with quickly, and as the Paralympics came to a close public opinion was rightfully that of elation. This was not the case in Sochi. These games were the most expensive Winter Olympics ever and were marred with accusations of corruption. The problems discussed with anti-gay laws and human rights violations at the start of the Games, were complemented with the invasion of a sovereign state towards the end and condemnation from Western States. Ruthless political acts such as diversionary wars are no stranger to leaders like Putin, but with modern communication these tactics are harder to successfully carryout on the international scale, and his actions have attracted much criticism from the West. However, internally, issues in Ukraine and the Olympics have actually increased Putin’s popularity.

Although Russia has enjoyed some benefits from putting on the Winter Olympics they are not the same as those England achieved in 2012. The benefits it has enjoyed go against the values held by states in the West and Putins reactions have in-fact resulted in Russia’s ejection from the G8. But why would Russia care? The event’s iconic torch relay was the invention of  the Nazis in 1936 to enhance the international reputation of the Third Reich. If Britain is happy to overlook this and the morals of big business to prop up a weak economy and boost public moral. Why shouldn’t Russia utilise her vast wealth and military power, in conjunction with the overhyped games day to achieve land, internal popularity, financial gain for oligarchs: anything she wants.

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One Comment
  1. karo1990 permalink

    I think your point, that the Olympics only benefit multinational corporations and governments while exploiting small business owners is very accurate. Big public diplomacy events overproportionately benefit the already wealthy and powerful. It would be great to compare the IOC with the Fifa. Furthermore, it is right to be reminded that the Olympics that we know today were an invention by the Nazi Propaganda Machinery, and they were certainly one of the most effective public diplomacy and propaganda actors ever.

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