The Olympic Games consist of some of the fiercest competition amongst athletes around the world and has been held in high regard for years. Originally an ancient Greek tradition, several countries now participate in the Olympics. Even through today’s heavy commercialization, the Games’ meanings remain the same. This year, 88 countries are participating in the Winter Games, which are being held in Sochi, Russia.
There is much to look forward to while watching the Olympics. Athletes who normally do not garner much media attention outside the Games have a chance to shine in gold medal glory and make history. For instance, athletes like U.S. Nordic skier Todd Lodwick and Finnish hockey star Teemu Selanne are making their sixth Olympic appearances, while hundreds of others are making their first. Additionally, the wide variety of events allows viewers to take in the aura of sports they rarely get to see on television, such as bobsledding or curling.
Despite the excitement leading up to the Olympics, there has also been a growing concern regarding the safety and security in Sochi. While Russian president Vladimir Putin has dispatched heavy security in Sochi for the Olympics, terrorist threats in Russia have become more prominent in recent months. As a result, some athletes have gone as far as not bringing their families with them to Sochi.
Additionally, anti-gay laws were recently passed in Russia last year, which has drawn much criticism internationally. Even though Putin insists that gay athletes will not be discriminated against during the Olympics, there is still some ongoing concern that the new law may be enforced. Opposition to the anti-gay laws has ranged from openly gay athletes being sent to Russia as delegates, to petitions calling for a boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics.
“The measures that the Russian government have implemented, especially towards the homosexual community are horrendous, in the fact that there are homosexual athletes,” said Arcadia senior Brandon Strauss. “You look on the news and you can see how that community is being treated in Russia … such violence and stigmatism is frightening.”
“If you do this to your own people, then what is the breaking point where you’re not going to respect another country’s sovereignty in regards to their athletes?”
When asked whether or not he would have the Games in Sochi if he could make the decision, Strauss responded, “I would not have had them in Sochi. Honestly, I wouldn’t have had them in Russia in general. The policies that they’re enacting are simply terrifying. Look at how China, which is a country that’s still technically communist and reluctant to allow outsiders, prepared for the Games versus how Russia prepared for the Games. The Games start tonight, and [Russia] is still preparing. It’s kind of like they wanted it so no one else could have it. Give it to some place that actually wants it.”
Arcadia junior Matthew Hiegl agreed with Strauss’ viewpoint and mentioned, “I probably would have gone with [actor] George Takei’s suggestion and put [the Olympics] back in Vancouver again.”
The Olympics have already begun in Sochi. Time will only tell how Sochi will fare as the Olympic host country.