Watch the damned athletes

By Michael Grondin

The International Olympic Charter states that “the practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind.”

The Olympics is a time for community and competition that should be offered to everyone regardless of their nationality, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. It is a time where athletes from around the world can come together to display their dedication to the sports they have worked so hard to be a part of. Divisive politics should not hinder this tradition.

The controversial circumstances surrounding the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games have given the media a lot to play with. Whether it’s Russian President Vladimir Putin’s new “anti-gay propaganda” law, the displacement and mistreatment of the residents of Sochi, the alleged corruption attached to Sochi’s $50 billion price tag or the airplane with a crazed “bomber” on board, the focus of the Olympics has been whittled at by bloodthirsty journalists and broadcasters.

What previous Olympics have taught us is that the media always goes into a frenzy, digging for the worst stories rather than showing us the positive aspects of the Games. Therefore, the focus of Sochi 2014 should be redirected to the athletes.

The individuals who are competing in the Olympics — who are representing their homes, their countries and their people — who have worked so hard for mere moments of glory and defeat that disappear in the blink of an eye, in fractions of a second.

From the time these athletes put on their first pair of skis, skates or bindings — from the first time they tasted true competition — they have poured blood, sweat and tears into becoming the best of the best. And that is what the world needs to focus on right now.

The media’s negative representation of the political actions taken by the Russian government in the months prior to the Games have fueled debate and anger. This has clouded the true importance of the Games. And sadly, many people around the world have decided to boycott the Sochi Olympics in light of politics.

But for all of the athletes who dreamed of one day standing on an Olympic podium, ignoring them and their dreams just isn’t fair, no matter where in the world those games are held. They deserve our attention and they deserve our respect.

There are 25 athletes who are students and alumni of the University of Calgary competing in the Sochi Games. The 224 athletes representing Canada, and the many others who are representing their home countries should be a beacon of inspiration and global community.

Since when has an individual’s sexual orientation limited their ability to play sports? Since when has nationality, religion or cultural politics dictated their ability to compete? Never has and never will. So while the media pumps out stories of delirium-filled distraction, let’s remember that the Olympics is a time where togetherness means the world.

This is not to disregard the issues surrounding these Games, many of which clearly violate human rights. These problems came before the Olympics, and they’ll be there afterwards. Human rights violations existed and will exist regardless of the Beijing, Vancouver and London Olympics. What is disquieting is that the public only recognizes these on-going social issues during large-scale events like the Olympics, and ignores them once they are over.

Over the next week and a half, let’s concentrate on what really matters and then attempt to make positive changes in the wake of what can be a time of global community and a shared love of sport.

Fuck the politics, let’s give the athletes a chance to shine.

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