Inside the issues of Sochi
The politics of sport
From Russia spending $51 billion, to Putin stating, “there are no gay people in Russia,” this year’s Olympics in Sochi have been mired in controversy. On Jan. 27, Mount Royal University hosted a panel of Olympic experts to explore the political and social issues surrounding the Sochi Olympics. The panel — Kristina Groves, Mark Tewksbury and Dr. David Legg — shared their insider views, stories and experiences on the politics behind sport and the Sochi Olympics.
Kristina Groves, a decorated and recently retired Olympic speed skater, talked about what it was like to compete during the bribery-ridden 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. She said as an athlete she didn’t think much about the politics surrounding the games because she was “consumed with the whole point of the being an athlete — being the best in the world.” Since retirement, Groves explained that she might have had a “willful ignorance” towards the issues of 2002 that were surrounding her, but that some athletes do this as a “self-preservation method” to maintain focus.
Should athletes ignore the sensitive issues surrounding the games? Mark Tewksbury, a LGBTQ advocate and former Canadian Olympian said, “it is not an athletes’ job to be to a politician, but it is an athletes’ job to compete.”
Tewksbury went on to explain that we shouldn’t expect Sochi’s athletes to speak out about the politics in sport, but we should expect the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to say something. He explained that the IOC was escaping public scrutiny and had no accountability for selecting the host city in a country that, in his opinion, violated human rights.
Will accusations of LGBTQ discrimination, corruption scandals, and terrorist threats attached to the 2014 Sochi Olympics discredit the entire event itself? Dr. David Legg, current member of Canada’s Paralympic Committee and MRU professor, said, “politics in sports isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are a lot of good that can come out of it.”
He explained that controversial sporting events, like the Sochi Olympics, raise awareness towards sensitive and political issues and have the potential to create social change. Sports and politics will always be brought to the forefront during the Olympic Games and other international competitions because they offer a look inside the host’s culture, positive or not.