On the Rocks: The Sochi Cocktail

1936 Berlin Olympics: No politics here.
1936 Berlin Olympics: No politics here.

In the days before people had DVD players, there must have been few activities more entertaining than watching oiled up Greeks wrestle each other, or in fact, oiling yourself up and joining in. Now of course, things aren’t so simple. You can’t just get a bottle of Vaseline and grope a guy for kicks, he might have chemically altered his Vaseline beyond the legally prescribed level of slipperiness, or indeed chemically altered his body to make himself – both metaphorically and literally – a slippery individual. McDonald’s and Nike won’t sponsor any old groping contest either – you need to have bulldozed a) huge areas of untouched forest, b) a poor person’s house, c) human rights, or d) all of the above (this last option is ideal as it proves you really mean business).

To do this is also not a simple or cheap task, and it may require certain individuals to make sacrifices. Namely the kind of people who are being sacrificed on a daily basis anyway: Jews, homosexuals, and poor people might just have to stop being so homosexual, Jewish, and openly poor. It’s okay to be poor, we just don’t want anybody flaunting their poverty ostentatiously – ditto for their homosexuality (no Village People songs please! Freddie Mercury and Elton John are fine though).

Most of all, no politics, please! Legitimate sportspeople are just trying to have a good honest $50 billion jelly wrestling contest here! Why don’t you homosexuals just lie low for a bit and let us have our fun? We slave away day after day while what do you guys all do huh? Sitting there with your on-trend clothing, book learning, and internet blogs! How dare you! Some of us are trying to make an honest living sliding down mountains on carbon-fibre planks.

It says something, that while forests were being bulldozed, homosexuals discriminated against, and dissidents locked up – that sportspeople and sports journalists had nothing else to draw attention to than their own subpar hotel rooms and toilets. I’m sure both of these things made their lives uncomfortable, but I suspect they have themselves made the lives of the people outside their Olympic bubble significantly more uncomfortable by electing to compete there. It wouldn’t have hurt for sports journalists and Olympians to have tweeted about those issues instead.

In reply to such a criticism, sportspeople inevitably trot out the line that they’ve been trotting out since Hitler hosted the Olympic games in 1936 – namely that sports and politics don’t mix, and that those Nazi salutes on the podium were just athletes harmlessly showing off their incredibly toned arms. It’s an even more interesting perspective to have in the case of Sochi though, as their sporting competition seems to have exacerbated most of the ‘political’ problems that sportspeople insist has nothing to do with them or their sport.

Organised sport can’t derive benefits – or demand things like stadiums for that matter – from politicians and nation states, then turn around and claim they have nothing to with the machinations of either. Sports and politics unfortunately do mix. Trust me, a lot of us non-sportspeople would prefer that not to be the case. But every time you convince us that the State has nothing to do with your sport, you turn around and ask for million dollar stadiums, velodromes, and boats that only you will use. If sports and politics keep mixing, it’s not because of the tweeters and the people blogging – but because sportspeople insist on keeping it that way.

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