Thursday, January 2, 2014

Guard the Post: Sochi 2014 is on the horizon

7 years ago, Sochi, Russia was granted the 2014 Winter Olympic games. At that time, Russia needed the attention that comes with hosting the biggest sporting event in the world. In hindsight, the attention may have been a little bit more than the Russo's were looking for. Anti-gay legislation, money problems, political unrest with the United States and other world powers, threats of terrorist attacks, and bombings in other Russian cities, just to name a few.

Today, we are 36 days away from the opening ceremonies of the 22nd Winter Olympiad. With Olympic trials in the news, the 2014 Olympic Committee has gotten a bit of a break from the public unrest they have been getting for over a year now. It is safe to say that Sochi has been the most questionable games in terms of social issues and news.

Though Russia's anti-gay legislation has had the biggest social impact worldwide, many other things have occurred that do and will impact Sochi 2014. Though Olympics rarely run to budget, or even close to budget, Sochi has blown theirs out of the water. Originally budgeted for $12 billion, it has cost nearly $50 billion; this number is larger than all other Winter Olympics combined.

There has been considerable political tension between Russia and the United States, as well as other world powers. With Asia quickly becoming the new center of the political galaxy, it is important that Russia steps out as a considerable regional power. After Vladimir Putin granted asylum to Edward Snowden, President Barack Obama cancelled an individual meeting between two of the most powerful men in the world at the G20 summit. This tension has been magnified by Putin's support of North Korean nuclear growth and treatment of migrant workers in preparation for Sochi.

Whenever a large sporting event is hosted, safety is the most important thing for workers, participants, and fans. There has been multiple bombings in the last month in other towns in Russia of similar size to Sochi. These bombings have created even greater concern surrounding the safety of those attending the Games. With individual freedom restricted in Russia compared to most world powers, and the biggest sporting event coming into the country, many believe that organizations and people may see this as their opportunity to push their beliefs to a worldwide audience. This delivery may just come in the form of protest, but it could also be much more drastic.

In July, President Putin signed a bill into law stating, "police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days." This was met with huge protests across Russia and the world. This means that an American or any other athlete that is gay or even supportive of gay rights could be arrested and detained for the length of the Olympics. The backlash nationally and internationally had little affect on Putin's opinion on the matter and he has stuck by his decision. There has been talk of a boycott, but it has been decided that a strong presence of the LGBT community at the Games may better serve Russians, the athletes, and the world as a whole.

Hopefully Sochi 2014 delivers above expectations, but at the moment it doesn't look great. This has been the most talked about Winter Olympic games ever and promises to be a spectacle. Here's to hoping that all the fans, workers, and athletes have a safe, fruitful, and successful Olympic games. Oh, and GO USA!


Kevin Murray is a Pre-Junior Sport Management Major at Drexel University, originally from Havertown, PA. He worked in the Drexel Sport Management Department as a Research Assistant focusing on the Penn State scandal, equity in collegiate sports, and Title IX.  He completed his first co-op last spring with Drexel Athletics External Relations Department, where he still works part-time. He is currently a Resident Assistant in University Crossings, a member of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, and Vice President of SMTSU.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinj_murray.

Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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