Saturday, 11 January 2014

Let the Games Begin in Sochi !

The Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to open in Sochi, Russia on February 7th, and President Vladimir Putin is determined to make this the safest and most expensive Olympic games ever.

I am disappointed that the original intention of international Olympism — 'to organise Physical Education', 'sportmanship', 'healthy mind in a healthy body' — is too often sabotaged by politics. (Olympic Charter 1933)

The Fundamental Principles of Olympism remind me of my view of the Doukhobor Movement: 'a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind... to create a way of life based on the joy of effort, the educational value of good example and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles…harmonious development of man, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity... a human right...without discrimination of any kind…mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.... Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the... Movement.'

The UK Guardian lists 17 political abuses of the the games since Berlin in 1936, despite their principles.

In 1980, I was a Canadian photojournalist at the 22nd Summer World Olympics in Moscow when several western countries boycotted the games that year because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan a few months earlier. I was disappointed then, and now by the boycott.

Again this year several western countries are considering a political boycott of the Russian Olympic hosts over too little freedom for 'gays' (LBGT), and too much freedom for whistle-blower Snowden, though they attended the 2008 Olympics in China (another Eastern nation seeking legitimacy). (Harper, Obama to both skip Sochi Olympics, CTV News, December 19, 2013.)

How can Canada and the U.S. accuse Russia of violating human rights when we have so much inequality here? We are not a perfect example.

International friendship and tolerance is the basis for the Olympics. All countries have to work together in order to minimise harmful inequalities and maximise sustainability, to ensure that peace, clean environment, friendly infrastructure including affordable housing for all, free health care and education, and good governance are guaranteed to all people. The Olympics is a great opportunity to reinforce this unity of purpose.

I say: “Let the Sochi Games begin!”

All world leaders, including Obama and Harper, must be brave enough to go to Sochi and show their respect for Olympism. Let the Olympic dream of a peaceful and just world community evolve through time, effort and respect.


  1. I, too, was disappointed by the 1980 boycott of the Moscow Olympics, as,at that time I was in a professional position to offer my then recent experience of studying in Moscow to the medical team that would have accompanied the Canadian Olympic team to the Soviet Union! However, given that the humanistic ideals of the Olympic Games have been abrogated by all sorts of political forces over the years, I am inclined to be less than optimistic that these Olympic Games can avoid such manipulation! While I regret the violence that such events have and continue to attract, and even if I have difficulty in supporting much of the political agendas of Harper and/or Obama, I would rather see the goals of the Olympics be upheld by expecting ALL "so-called" political leaders from excusing themselves from attending the Olympics, including Putin!! If all Olympic Games continue to celebrate nationalism, national flags, national anthems, and inter-national "metal counts", then one can expect a "respect" of Olympism to continue to be coloured by human "competition" and not "cooperation"!

  2. Too often such international events are suborned by an excessive breast beating, the nature of the 'last refuge of the scoundrel' [patriotism] and are basically dominated by countries who have needlessly spent lavish amounts of money on professional 'pets' while homeless people sleep on the streets.
    Furthermore, they are based on mindless aggression and in no way does this extravagant exercise cultivate the so called virtues of sportsman type qualities of caring and compassion and inclusion of those who cannot meet the economic demands of modern competition.
    Another example of how multinational corporations can pervert an original ideal in the name of capitalistic excess.

  3. Elyena Lundh, British Columbia14 January 2014 at 21:22

    In response to your posting I feel that universal compassion and understanding for the suffering of all peoples needs to be carried in the hearts of all. If the Obama's, Putin's and all great leaders felt compassion and love as they feel for their own children, families, and countrymen for all beings, all countries, all leaders, then their would be friendship....and Olympic Games celebrated peacefully. Suffering and aspirations can be understood. By looking at the nature of our own love we can understand if we are loving someone because of our own selfish desire, which creates suffering. Self reflection is needed...peeling away layer by layer to see the true motive of our love for another.