The Sochi 2014 Madness must end Now!
Once again, for Russia’s own good as much as its own, we call upon the world to divest Russia of the 2014 Olympic games. If this cannot be accomplished, we call upon all civilized nations of good faith to boycott the games and hold their own alternative.
The Russian government spent nearly $120 million preparing its athletes to compete at the Vancouver 2010 Olympiad, over five times more than it had spent preparing for the 2006 games in Turin, Italy.
The result? Russia’s medal count decreased substantially, not even placing it in the top 10 gold medal winners, and the head of the preparation effort was forced to resign. Russia was absolutely humiliated before a slack-jawed world. The head of Russia’s biathalon team, which experienced the most spectacular of all Russia’s team breakdowns, stated: “We don’t produce skis, modern waxes and lubricants, and Russian rifles are 20 percent more inaccurate than German ones and do not correspond to international standards.”
What this means is simple: Russia’s leaders in the Kremlin were totally unable to supervise the nation’s use of precious millions, which were squandered to shocking ill effects. In their efforts to blame underlings, Russia’s prime minister and president did not accept one iota of blame for themselves, much less did either one resign.
And what about Sochi? Even more vast sums are being spent by a country whose citizens don’t rank in the top 130 in the world for life expectancy. And the Kremlin tells us that it is capable of managing that expenditure and bringing off the games successfully, just as it bragged that the $120 million spent on Vancouver would yield at least 30 medals. The claims about Sochi are, of course, every bit as ludicrous and dishonest as were the claims about Vancouver.
As we document in today’s issue, Russia is seriously neglecting many public health issues and other public concerns, such as child smoking, as it diverts massive resources away from such projects to the games, and it is not even able to pay the workers who are building the games; in today’s issue we document their shocking deprivation and suffering.
If we consider on the appalling waste of desperately needed funds and the prospect of more national humiliation for Russia, both on the playing fields and as hosts, we do not think any more reasons are necessary to justify immediately stripping Russia of the hosting duties, for its own good. We feel the argument makes itself.
But there are, of course, many other equally important reasons that cry out for divestment.
First, placing the games in Sochi is horrifically dangerous. Russia is facing unprecedented outbreaks of violence throughout the Caucasus region, and the risk of terrorism against the games is simply far too great. The world is gambling with the lives of its young athletes by sending them to Sochi, and it has no right to do so. They will go wherever the games are held, and the world owes it to them to hold them someplace safe.
Second, Russia simply doesn’t deserve the games. It’s barbaric crackdown on civil society, its reversion to a Soviet past that glorifies the mass murderer Josef Stalin, and it’s bloodthirsty invasion of Georgia have disqualified Russia from being considered a civilized member of the community of nations. To hold the games in Russia is to give the malignant forces of the Kremlin propaganda weapons they can use to suggest that the world has ratified the Putin regime. This is blasphemy against the very notion of democracy and all those who have been sacrificed on the alter of Russian dictatorship.
Third, as we document in today’s issue, Russia is recklessly destroying the regional ecology to build the Olympics venues. The United Nations has just issued a scathing report condemning Russian atrocities against the natural environment, and the IOC is now being forced to investigate.
And fourth, allowing Russia to build the Olympic venues in Sochi will do irreversible environmental harm to Sochi. The invaluable Paul Goble documents that harm in today’s issue, and Russian environmentalists on the front lines confirm that the Kremlin is butchering the natural world on the Black Sea coast in order to build venues of absolutely no value to ordinary Russians, at horrifying expense.