To me, the memories of the Sydney Olympics in the summer of 2000 remain as vivid as if it took place yesterday. It is not because I, then, as a sixth grade student, was mature enough to come to appreciate the underlying message of Olympics for the first time but because I was moved by the rambunctious enthusiasm vis-à-vis Sydney Olympics that swept across the globe. The near-universally acclaimed Sydney Olympics was remarkable for many reasons. But for me, the most outstanding feature was the kindling of the Olympic caldron. Cathy Freeman, an aboriginal sprinter served the honor to the contrary of my otherwise supposition - “after all, Australia is a predominantly white nation, right?” Ms. Freeman did enlighten the Olympic stadium, and likewise my prejudiced mind. Thenceforth, I have always believed the Olympic games are the only occasion where equality, diversity and integrity are celebrated. But this year’s winter Olympics in the Russian resort city, Sochi, seems to lack these characteristics.
The Sochi Olympics falls short of my expectations. In fact, it shatters my long-held belief about an event that, by nature, uplifts brotherhood. If Sydney brought the Australian roots to the center of our attention, Sochi shuns it in every possible way. My apology to Vladimir; I am speaking on behalf of the Circassians, vanquished and subsequently culled by the mighty Russian empire at the very place where the winter Olympics are held. In order to protect the sanctity of the Olympics, would it be too much for the Russian Parliament to acknowledge the brutal repression of the Circassians as ‘genocide’?
I am reminded of those poor Ingush and Chechens who were ruthlessly uprooted from their homeland around the greater Sochi. It is beyond scope to figure out why Joseph Stalin turned his back on the valiant people who fought under his tutelage to defeat the Nazis. But, it is far more ironical to watch how President Putin has simply allowed the opportunity to purify Russia’s bitter past to wither on the vine. When the Chechen and Ingush diaspora, with solemn hearts, mourn on the day that marks 70th year of their forced deportations, Sochi’s sky will be flashed with mind blowing fireworks of the Olympic closing day. Lending an ear to the eerie Caucasian forests in the backdrop of Sochi’s mountains, the muffled screams of those displaced persons may be heard yet today. Alas they cannot pierce through Putin’s “ring of steel.”
This winter Olympics in Sochi, adorned with multi-billion infrastructures, is a stunning display of President Putin’s modern Russia. But this modernity cannot conceal the legacy of the Kremlin’s ironfisted rule. The Sochi Olympics may have given voices to homosexuals, environmentalists or human right activists in an unprecedented manner. Yet; the Putin administration has clamped down on their movements too. In protest, a number of gay athletes have decided not to take part in Sochi. As a result, the Olympics that do not heartily welcome diversity or equality thus lose its charm. The anti-aircraft missile batteries are mounted a stone’s throw away of the ski slopes in Sochi. On the streets, Soviet-era Cossacks are ready to confront any threats. Evidently, security is tighter than any other Olympics which is further complemented by the staggering 2 billion dollar security budget. Vladimir Putin is therefore expected to fulfill his personal guarantee to host an incident free event. Nevertheless, I cannot label Sochi a decent Olympics. The reasons are too manifest.