As the icy lights of Sochi begin to thaw I think we can all agree that Russia deserves a pat on the back. Sure, there were a few teensy weensy human rights violations, but they were eclipsed by the glorious spectacles of human achievement, like people using pieces of fiberglass to slide down hills quite quickly. Unfortunately, the weedy misanthropes at Amnesty International disagree, saying that “the legacy of the Sochi Olympics will be tainted”. So to counter this cynical attempt to urinate all over the Olympic Spirit I’ve written this open letter, in the hope that the cooling winds of reason can freeze their hatred mid-stream and let it shatter like golden crystals on the soft snow of appreciation for peak athletics.
The Olympics began three sweaty millenia hence when a bunch of ancient Greeks decided to celebrate the inspiring infinitude of human potential by taking off their clothes and throwing plates a long way. Since they were resurrected by an upper class P.E teacher in 1894 the Games have come to mean so much more, like rabid nationalism and naked profiteering. These are the values that we lose sight of when we’re distracted by the Russian Government’s assassination of journalists. It’s all very easy for the blubber-gutted haters to bang their wooden spoons about the systematic oppression of LGBT people, but what about the human rights of the millions of kids who dream of watching the curling on tv? Maybe the magic will influence them to take up the broom themselves. Every story about Russia arresting and persecuting political critics is one less story about Melbourne hero Lydia Lassila winning bronze in the aerial skiing, and I think that’s the real tragedy. Putin’s regime may be responsible for forced evictions, migrant slavery and a medal tally of authoritarianism and corruption that rivals the Soviet Union in its dying days, but it’s also responsible for an amazing opening ceremony. What do human rights organisations know about sports anyway? Amnesty International doesn’t even lift.
Then there are the couch-dwelling gloommongers trying to depress us over how much the Games cost. A country with millions of people in poverty spending $50 billion on a glorified ice skating competition might look like a money-grubbing pyramid scheme run by oligarchs and shoe manufacturers, but any cash invested now will return to Sochi many times over in the next couple of years. Just look at England. The 2012 Summer Games had their fair share of chicken-limbed naysayers and it’s safe to say they’ve been rendered red-faced. Sure, London is still an economic quagmire riddled with unemployment and obesity, but no-one can take away the memory of that giant inflatable Mary Poppins. The Olympics gave London anti-protest legislation, electrified fences, water cannons, domestic drones and an omniscient CCTV network with facial recognition technology; and it’s heartening to think that although the Games have moved on this paranoiac security apparatus remains largely intact. Not to mention the new eras of freedom in Athens and Beijing. Some would say that the Olympics leave a legacy of totalitarianism wherever they go, but is that such a bad thing? If you’re going to inject people with servile patriotism while stripping away their liberties it’s only courteous to give them a circus at the same time.
Besides, it’s not like the International Olympic Committee is run by an actual fascist – he retired in 2001. Juan Antonio Samaranch, the head of the IOC from 1980 to 2001, began his illustrious career in athletics management as Francisco Franco’s sports minister. A proud anti-democrat and personal friend of the dictator, Samaranch also served as the unelected Governor of Barcelona, when he was responsible for the suppression of dissidents and minorities. That a goose-stepping fascista who defected from the Spanish republicans in 1937 to join a Hitler allied regime could rise to such heights shows the diversity and tolerance at the heart of International Olympic Committee. The 1936 games proves just how open minded they are. In their exposé “The Lords of Rings – Power, Money and Drugs in the Modern Olympics”, investigative journalists and sourpuss killjoys Vyv and Andrew Jennings describe the Olympics as purely commercial, infested with bribery and universally saturated with performance enhancing drugs. In the quarter century since the book was published all of it’s claims have been vindicated, but the television coverage of the luge has improved exponentially.
So when you watch the members of Pussy Riot being pepper sprayed, horsewhipped and viciously beaten for singing outside a stadium, don’t listen to the jealous whinging of those who would tear our podiums to the ground. Instead, think about the children all over the world who the Games have inspired to get off the couch, run outside and go to McDonalds. That’s the noble flame that these Cossacks are fighting to defend. The couragous athleticism of these men shouldn’t be criticised, it should be celebrated. After all, the fast outrunning the slow, the high defeating the low, the strong crushing the weak – isn’t that the Olympic spirit?