Sport and Politics Will Always Compete at Olympic Games; for Russian President Vladimir Putin, It's a PS30bn Showpiece Event - but before It Even Opened, the Sochi Winter Olympics Was Embroiled in Controversy over Security, Corruption, Gay Rights and Animal Welfare. as Darren Devine Reports, Such Tension between Sport and Politics Is Nothing New at a Major Global Event

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 10, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sport and Politics Will Always Compete at Olympic Games; for Russian President Vladimir Putin, It's a PS30bn Showpiece Event - but before It Even Opened, the Sochi Winter Olympics Was Embroiled in Controversy over Security, Corruption, Gay Rights and Animal Welfare. as Darren Devine Reports, Such Tension between Sport and Politics Is Nothing New at a Major Global Event


IT'S the most reproduced image in the history of the Olympic Games, say Sports Illustrated. Jesse Owens blowing away the competition in Berlin while a humiliated Hitler looks on? No.

Bob Beamon flying through the air before forcing officials to measure his monumental 8.9m jump manually because their equipment wasn't calibrated to record the unprecedented distance he covered? No.

Sprinter Wilma Rudolph overcoming the polio, leg braces and the orthopaedic shoes that marred five years of her life to take three golds in Rome? No.

The most reproduced image in the history of the Games captures none of the countless moments of unforgettable sporting greatness that make them one of the world's most watched events.

Instead, it captures the other side of the games - when the sport gets engulfed by politics.

Heads bowed, black-gloved fists defiantly outstretched on the podium as the Star Spangled Banner rings round the Olympic Stadium. This is the most reproduced image in the history of the Games.

And Tommie Smith and John Carlos' courageous black power salute in Mexico was part of a tradition of using the world's biggest sporting platforms to protest that stretched back way before their 1968 gesture and continued long after.

Like many major sporting events before them, it seems Sochi's Winter Games risk being remembered more for the backdrop than the bobsleigh.

The United Nations and much of the western world has decided that Russia won't, in the tradition of every host nation, simply be allowed to use the event as a huge promotional tool to boost their profile.

Already dogged by claims they are the most controversial in history with additional concerns over damage to the environment, animal welfare, and rights of workers and indigenous people, the row over Russia's treatment of gay people has garnered most of the coverage of the Games.

On Friday, Google got in on the act - quoting the Olympic Charter's insistence that, "Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind" to take a swipe at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia's recently passed gay propaganda and blasphemy laws banning the "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" among minors and criminalising religious insult, as well as the re-criminalisation of defamation have been greeted with a chorus of disapproval around the world.

But sports historian Dr Martin Johnes said politics formed part of the birth of the modern Olympics and the drama unfolding in Sochi springs from that tradition. …

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Sport and Politics Will Always Compete at Olympic Games; for Russian President Vladimir Putin, It's a PS30bn Showpiece Event - but before It Even Opened, the Sochi Winter Olympics Was Embroiled in Controversy over Security, Corruption, Gay Rights and Animal Welfare. as Darren Devine Reports, Such Tension between Sport and Politics Is Nothing New at a Major Global Event
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