The Olympics shouldn’t be about politics. They should be about being proud of your country.
The above is not a specific quote from a specific person, but it’s representative of what I’ve been hearing a lot. Whether it’s from friends, family, or Rob Ford (who thankfully fits into neither of the above categories) I should apparently not be thinking about politics because of the magnificent spectacle of Pure Sport which is occurring.
My response to that is pretty simple: Open your fucking eyes.
The Olympics is completely about politics, and always has been. The modern Olympics were founded at a time of intense international rivalry in Europe and have always been a showcase for the nationalistic pride and might of the participant and host nations. The Cold War merely pushed the trend into East vs West blocs. (Jaime Fuller of the Washington Post has written an excellent analysis of the history of politics in the Games, and it should be a must-read.) Hell, even the ancient games were a political/religious festival where representatives from the various πόλεις could meet and negotiate during a period of truce — the Games themselves were largely an excuse for that gathering.
The Russians — by which I mean Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of cleptocrats — are putting on these games to showcase the might and majesty of Russia, and it’s a spectacle largely intended for their own people. This is public-relations for the narod… and if it makes Putin look like a hero in front of the rest of the world, even better. It won’t, of course: as observed by even a halfway skeptical media all these games have done is highlight the brutality, corruption and homophobic amorality of Putin’s regime. (The dazzling opening ceremonies? Four gay-rights activists were arrested while those were going on. Reports are that they were beaten in the street by police and anti-gay thugs before being dragged away.)
If ever the Olympic Games meant anything, if the ideals of equality and athleticism had any meaning, giving the Games to Putin’s Russia have pretty much proven that those ideals mean nothing anymore. These Games are a bitter mockery of the very ideals they claim to support. We, as a nation, should have condemned Russia’s homophobic laws and refused to participate in giving money and legitimacy to the regime that passed them. We should have shown the moral leadership that Canada used to be famous for. To show our support of oppressed LGBT people in Russia — and I say this with all sympathy to those Canadian athletes who would have been left out in the cold — Canada should have boycotted the Sochi Olympics.
Of course, the current government of Canada has no intention — and never did — of boycotting the Games. It would have thrown their timetable right off, which brings me to the other thing I’m pissed off about: You think the Games aren’t about politics? The Harper government is trying to slip the biggest gerrymander in Canadian history under the radar using the Games as cover.
And it’s working.
The Harper government’s so-called Fair Elections Act represents a callous and cynical attempt by a callous and cynical party to fundamentally alter how elections work in this country; to disenfranchise youth voters and the economically disadvantaged; and give a free pass to big money and electoral corruption in this country. All of those things clearly and disproportionately benefit the Conservative Party of Canada… and the Tories are doing it with a smirk on their faces.
It is the most appallingly, arrogantly blatant effort at re-working the rules for their own benefit that I have ever seen a political party attempt. And it is going to work. The headlines in all the media outlets this morning should have been “Chief Electoral Officer says Bill an Affront to Democracy“, not “Mark Morris Wins Bronze Medal“. No offense to Mark Morris, but the ability to skilfully slide down a hillside on a board is a little less important to me than a callous attempt to undermine the democratic process.
(And you know the thing that pisses me off the most about this? I can’t even write to my MP because “The Right Honourable” Dean Del Mastro is currently on trial for violating the Elections Act.)
As far as I can tell, after years of abuse the voters in this country have just gone numb. Canada’s democracy is being undermined by a cabal of politicians that have everything to gain by its demise. We are giving money and moral legitimacy to a regime which is deliberately persecuting LGBT people for its own political convenience because our government finds it convenient for their own purposes. And the Canadian media — and by extension the Canadian public — doesn’t seem to care as long as our medal count keeps going up.
Anyone who insists that we shouldn’t be talking about politics in the context of the Olympics is being willfully blind or dangerously naive, because the Olympics are entirely about politics.
And at the moment I’m not particularly proud of my country.