insidethegames.biz / Is the bus to the Sochi 2014 protest zone a local or an express?
In a recent insidethegames article, Emily Goddard reported on the “protest zone” planned by Russian authorities for the Sochi Games, some 18 kilometres from the Games’ hub. In her piece, one discovers such gems as: Vladimir Lukin, the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia and President of the Russian Paralympic Committee, welcomed the choice of Khosta and claimed it is easy to access. “It’s possible to travel there by car, by bus or on the train from the centre of Sochi, or from the sports centre,” he explained. “So if people want to exchange opinions and express their views on any topic, they can do it easily.” It’s gratifying to know that it’s easy to get to an island of freedom in a continent-wide sea of repression. Where, of course, protesters will find only other protesters protesting the repression of the right to protest. Should one expect more from the country’s “Human Rights” Commissioner, whose response to the federal anti-gay law has been that the only issue will be for judges to not be too cruel in their application of the measure. A “Human Rights” Commissioner who happens to be the head of the host country’s Paralympic Committee, which perhaps helps explain the International Paralympic Committee’s silence when faced with these laws.
We also learn from Russia’s deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak that: “People can freely express their opinion [in the protest zone], while not breaching the rights of other citizens or the Olympic Charter.” This statement has the merit of making clear that in Russia, freedom of speech is a violation of the “rights” of Russian citizens. Really. This is the country that the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee have deemed worthy of upholding the noble human right of sport (per the Olympic Charter). We know that Russia is an undemocratic, repressive, and authoritarian regime, so we should not be surprised when Russian authorities behave in an undemocratic, repressive, and authoritarian fashion. But what of the IOC and the IPC? What does this “protest zone”, which they have applauded, signify? Among other things, it means that they agree with the Russians that simply reading the Olympic Charter constitutes unlawful political propaganda. In this perversion of the values of Olympism. I, for one, cannot believe that the IOC and the IPC believe that stating: “The Olympics should place sport at the service of the preservation of human dignity.” or: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” or: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” constitutes political protest, unlawful propaganda, unacceptable language. Athletes are still waiting for the IOC to make clear that simply affirming the principles of the Olympic Movement cannot be considered protest, and that on the contrary, such affirmations will be welcomed and encouraged. Otherwise, you’ll find the ghost of Pierre de Coubertin on the 11:14 bus to Khosta.