The eyes of the world will be focused squarely on Russia for the next two weeks and rightfully so. The Winter Olympics are underway in Sochi.
Sadly, though, much of the attention leading up to the Games has been on terrorist threats, security and gay rights. Such concerns will likely continue throughout the Games, threatening to overshadow golden moments of sport.
And that’s a shame. The Olympics are about sport and sportsmanship, dedication and accomplishment, and rewarding the best of the best.
Inasmuch as we know the Olympics are not about politics and scoring political points, we know the Games are exploited for political and economical gain. The cameras might be trained on the gifted snowboarder, the brave bobsledders and the slick skaters, but lurking in the backs of the minds of athletes and spectators is whether they will be safe, whether some lunatic will cause chaos, destruction and harm as a means of making a statement in support of a cause.
It doesn’t matter how noble or how ridiculous the cause may be, the athletes and the hundreds of thousands of fans who are at the Olympic venues to celebrate sport and sportsmanship are not political pawns. They should not be drawn into the crosshairs of political corruption and international terrorism.
But how things should be and how things are don’t always jive. That’s why security and surveillance are such an important consideration at international gatherings of any kind. Participants at those events – athletes, spectators, delegates – need to be protected.
Many of the worries heading into Sochi existed four years ago when the Games were in Vancouver-Whistler. And the reality of how difficult it is to prevent acts of terror and destruction are as fresh as last year’s Boston Marathon.
Russia will surely be judged on how well its security forces do at protecting athletes and spectators. When the Olympic flame is extinguished in two weeks time hopefully the focus can be on medal counts, personal bests and Olympic glory.
Let athletic accomplishments prevail over politics.