The Olympic Games are now in full swing, but before we unanimously celebrate Britains medal tally (and I use the singular word medal quite deliberately), it is wise to take a step back and consider the implications of staging this incredible event in Sochi??an event which showcases unbelievable achievement, skill and years of dedication to extreme sports. The popularity of winter sports is growing around the globe and so more and more eyes are fixed for these few weeks on Russia and their seemingly smooth running of the Olympics.
If you saw channel 4s latest Dispatches programme it focussed on political tensions around Cities in Russia and attitudes, many of the Nations competing at the Olympics, may have assumed were long forgotten. Russia is officially welcoming gay athletes and spectators. But in a country where it is thought only 1% of gay people dare to live completely openly, it appears to be a hollow gesture.
This extraordinary Dispatches documentary gained unique access to the vigilante gangs that target gay men and women. The film depicts a country troubled by disturbing violence and distressing intimidation. Six months after the Russian parliament unanimously passed a law to protect children from non-traditional relationships, this film explores the terror that gay people in Russia are calling hunting season. Viewers will have witnessed appalling acts of violence, which the police and Government have decided not to act against, but with the laws that have been passed, almost direct these vigilante mobs towards these small sections in their community.
It does beg the question, should countries however big and however powerful be permitted to stage such prestigious tournaments? One as great as the Olympic Games? I suppose money talks, especially notes greased by the palms of the oil rich nations.
It is easy to forget or even turn a blind eye to the rumblings which will be going on under the surface in Sochi. Especially when the BBCs excellent coverage, both live and on national news, have dedicated hours of footage of slaloms, slips and silver medals for the British public to feast over their goggleboxes of an evening. But it is worth noting (as some news broadcasters literally did themselves) with a footnote of an article found circling the internet as well as some daring local reporters, of a story which claimed the man responsible for a slight technical glitch during the opening ceremony had been found dead in his hotel room the next morning. With stab wounds and markings consistent of a struggle. The article has since been taken down from the internet and the original source of the reporting has been silenced. One can only hope that is was indeed a hoax and not foul play from the Russian authorities who are deadly serious in making sure this Olympics runs smoothly in the eyes of the watching world.
So keen is Putin in fact that his Government has in gone now wait for it £30billion OVER budget!??A budget which already dwarfed any previous winter Olympic Games, in fact Vancouvers record breaking £6b budget now seems positively poultry in comparison to Sochis £51b budget. Much of this money will have been spent attempting to patch up Sochis war-torn landscape. Heaven forbid the worlds TV cameras depict anything other than a picturesque winter wonderland in this sleepy fishing village.
But how bothered are we as a viewing public, many will have watched the dispatches program and winced and the acts of terrorism Russians were committing against fellow countrymen. But how many of those have given it a second thought whilst tuning in to see Jenny Jones collecting Britains very first ever snow medal. Are the organisers even that bothered? As far as I was aware the Olympic charter, a document which specifies rules for Olympic host countries seems to have been misplaced under the committee and Russian due diligence. A document which states, 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 Olympic Movement Epic fail! I believe the young persons vernacular would term it!
I dont want to sound too harsh on what will undoubtedly be a successful and remarkable Olympic Games. And it should definitely not detract from the incredible achievements of the athletes and their respective teams, who have worked for years, decades to be able to compete. The Olympics after all, defines everything that is truly human and sensational about achievement and competition. One individual or teams challenge against a fellow competitor and the lengths we can push ourselves to.
So with that in mind, we can only hope that those in charge of these games use the same philosophy when deciding who is fit to stage such a competition. And push these nations to the very limit of what they can achieve to create a better world for their people to live in. A world fit for any Olympian.
If they dont then we could end up with senseless acts like The World Cup in Quatar! Nah, surely that could never happen???