IOC Made Disappointing Choice for 2014 Olympics

Andy Monserud

Every two years, the Olympics stir controversy wherever they land.  For all the diplomatic unity the games espouse, they inevitably serve as a platform for political maneuvering.  Athletes can use this stage as a catalyst for good, such as when African-American track and field star Jesse Owens won four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  But the Olympics themselves serve largely as a publicity gold mine for the country hosting them, whatever its faults may be.  In light of this, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) should show more discretion with their choice of hosts.

Russia, the site of this year’s Winter Olympics, is a particularly egregious pick.  Ruled by an unabashedly corrupt government with no respect for human rights, Russia is a not-so-distant third to North Korea and Iran on the list of the world’s most unfit places to celebrate international goodwill.  Its persecution of racial, religious and sexual minorities, horrific prison system, ruthless censorship and unapologetic sponsorship of other terrible examples of statecraft are too grave to ignore.

The United States, Russia’s one-time enemy and now occasional strange bedfellow, has made a show of sending gay public figures to the games in protest of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s recent anti-gay campaigns.  But American criticism of Russia is old hat, and this gesture is just that––a gesture.  The IOC has already negated any headway of these protests simply by allowing Russia to host the games.  For all the talk of international goodwill surrounding the Olympics, it’s no secret that host cities largely offer to hold the games for the opportunity to show off their success.  Does the IOC really believe Russia should be held up as a model nation?  

The Olympic Charter states that, among other things, the IOC must “act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement” and “promote a positive legacy from the Olympic Games to the host cities and host countries.”  In this case, the two contradict each other.  And while the charter does not require the IOC to keep the Olympics out of corrupt surveillance states with no concept of cruel and unusual punishment, perhaps they should consider adding that to the list as well.