'Ding-Dong Diplomacy' Sends

Article excerpt

The 2014 Winter Olympics kicked off in Sochi on Friday with a festival of music, dance and fashion, as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin's bravado in front of international media for organizing the largest and most expensive Games in history. Despite a general sense of unease that permeated much of the commentary during the inauguration ceremony, we shouldn't hide our pleasure in watching the action on TV, and openly praise U.S. President Barack Obama, French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron for using "Ding-Dong Diplomacy" to ring some bells in the minds of Russian leaders. Boycotting the Games' grand opening was a counter to anti-gay and other controversial human rights laws introduced into the Russian parliament last year.

Contrary to the "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" introduced in 1971 by the U.S. table tennis team, whose competitive participation in mainland China helped thaw relations between the two countries after a 22-year Cold War, this "Ding-Dong Diplomacy" aims to show world leaders that Putin has failed to dispel the anger, fear and suspicion that marred the buildup to the 22nd Winter Olympics without concerns of further isolating Russia on the international stage.

Nobody wants to hurt the legitimate pride of the Russian people for their years of hard preparation that have made it possible for their country to host an international sports event featuring 15 winter sport disciplines. Hosting the Games, however, should be acknowledged as a reward to a nation and celebrates its rebirth, like the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, or celebrates its rise to power, like the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. In other words, the Games are not intended to be an award for a leader governing with an iron fist while believing that he embodies the country.

Even if this is not the first time that a host country undertakes Pharaonic works to build sport infrastructure in the middle of nowhere, the estimated cost of US$51 billion has failed to improve the lives of those living in the area, not to mention the environmental damage that the 2014 Winter Olympics have already caused. Even though the organizers pushed ahead with a green theme while working with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), they failed to deliver a Games "in harmony with nature" as originally planned. Hosting the Winter Games in a subtropical region where it snows less than anywhere else in Russia was not only an incongruous choice, but a blatant demonstration that the sports event was further aimed at glorifying one man - the country's supreme leader. …