The banning of Russian athletes from the 2018 Winter Olympic Games has been a sad farce for the long discredited vision of the modern Olympic Games. Moreover the move is deeply unfair to the Russian athletes who devoted much of their young lives to this event.
An Olympics that was once threatened to be overshadowed by the conspicuous absence of Russia’s world-class winter Olympians has mercifully been overshadowed by a positive political development–the agreement between the two Korean states to march under a unification flag. In this sense, no matter which country wins the most medals, the real stars of the 2018 PyongChang Olympics are already Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in, who sized the opportunity for peace, in spite of US provocations which sought to destabilise the region.
When it comes to hosting a truly inclusive international sporting event however, Russia may yet have the last laugh as the 2018 Football World Cup will take place in cities throughout the Russian Federation this summer.
Russia’s hosting of the Winter Olympics in 2014 was a success both for the participating athletes and also for the presentation that Russia put on for the world. Drawing from Russia’s rich cultural heritage, the spectacles surrounding the 2014 Sochi Games were a tribute to the great individuals in Russia’s musical, athletic, scientific and literary traditions.
While The Olympic Games often has a quality of solemnity to it, something that was demonstrated in the 1980 Moscow Games where a single tear from Misha the mascot bear became an iconic piece of Soviet and Russian culture, the World Cup is traditionally more of a festive atmosphere.
Recent football World Cups have been as memorable for their mishaps as their sporting triumphs. The 2010 World Cup In South Africa was considered a post-Apartheid success for the rainbow nation. However, the matches are probably best remembered for the blaring sound of the infamous Vuvuzelas–plastic horns that when blown into, radiate a distinct sound. Because the Vuvuzelas were passed out at the matches, players had to often contend with the buzzing of tens of thousands of Vuvuzelas.
For the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, temperatures were so hot that the rules of football had to be amended, so that players could take cooling off breaks. Additionally the event was scrutinised for not diverting redevelopment funds to Brazil’s urban slums.
2018 ought to be the year that Russia takes the controversy over Olympic participation along with the general European and American derived pathology regarding Russia and turn it into something highly entertaining for the world.
Russia put its sense of humour on display during the closing ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. During the opening ceremony of those same games, an electric lighting display of the five Olympic rings, failed to fully expand the fifth ring in-line with that of the other four.
During the closing ceremony, organisers took the technical glitch in their stride as a group of dancers forming the shape of the Olympic rings, did not allow the group in the fifth ring to expand along with the other four.
While western media made the rather innocent technical glitch into a catastrophe it never was, the Russian sense of humour kicked in, making the whole thing come literally full (or should I say less than full) circle by the end of the Games.
While the Sochi Olympics were held before either the fascist coup in Kiev or Russians military aid to the Syrian war against terrorism, anti-Russian attitudes nevertheless prevailed in the western mainstream media, thus demonstrating that the coup in Kiev and the conflict in Syria have merely been the convenient justification for the US, EU and their partners to conduct a global defamation campaign against Russia that was already under way well before February of 2014.
Four years later, the Russian sense of humour is more required than ever before to turn the 2018 World Cup into something that reflects Russia’s ability to take the absurd paranoia of its detractors in stride and still throw a meaningful party for football fans throughout the world.
If the 2017 Federation Cup in Russia is anything to go by, 2018 will be a year that Russia indeed has the last laugh and has it on its home pitch.