Monday, 10 February 2014

Times: We are to blame
Friday, February 7, 2014, 09:59 by Ramona Depares

As the winter Olympics kick off today in Russia, major corporations express holier-than-thou condemnation at Putin’s undemocratic administration.

Google gave us a rainbow, Olympic-themed doodle.

The Canadian Institue of Diversity came up with a rather amusing video showing us why the games “have always been a bit gay”.

And in the meantime, the shocking stories have been coming in thick and fast:

Homosexuals will be fine as long as “they leave the children alone”.

Glamorous leopards trapped in a zoo are fine, but stray dogs have to be culled.

Finding $50 billion to finance the most expensive Olympics ever is doable, but solving the problem of extreme poverty in Russia is not.

Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a nightmare of human rights violations, of large-scale corruption, of organised crime. It is easy to see why the hounds are baying for his blood.

This baying does not impress me. We – and by we, I mostly mean Europe and the US – are kidding ourselves if we think that just a couple of token protests will allow us to rest with an easy conscience.

Everyone is aware, and has been for a while, that Putin’s policies are not exactly in line with the western idea of human rights and democracy. The man is not renowned for civilised policies.

Since his ascent to power, he’s mostly been in the headlines only to show off his pecs and his uncanny ability to pretend that Russia didn’t actually sign the European Convention of Human Rights. Political activism lands you in jail and, heavens help you if directly accuse Putin of any wrong-doing.

The entire world is aware of this – vide the Pussy Riot saga.

And yet, somehow, the Olympics are being held in Russia.

And yet, someone decided that it was fine to give Putin the diplomatic seal of approval by allowing Russia to host the games.

And yet, somehow, the big names that sponsor the event feel no shame lending their goodwill to a country where human rights hold little value.

Only now are official bodies repeating what pressure groups have been protesting against ever since the decision to host the events in Russia was taken.

Even US president Barack Obama, who has been lauded for what ‘might’ have been a couple of subtle digs at Putin, did jack in terms of actual political statements. So he chose not to attend the opening ceremony. Big whoop.

What he should have done was use the power of the country he helms to ‘diplomatically’ pound some sense in the International Olympic Committee and to stop the events from taking place there in the first place. As all the other leaders of the democratic world also should have.

But no. Only now, after the sponsorship deals have been struck and the diplomatic wheeling and dealing completed, have the powers-that-be decided to voice some form of condemnation.

But while we all share journalists’ tweets about hilariously non-existing hotels, the poverty and corruption continue unchecked, as does the abuse of human and animal rights.

And no amount of wagging of fingers at those nasty Russians will absolve those who gave the green light to this year’s Olympics from their portion of blame.

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