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From Vancouver to Sochi

March 5, 2010

Alina Iyaneh in The Globalist:

Will the next Winter Olympics — to be held in Sochi, Russia in 2014 — provide the same platform for harmony and peace as did the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games?

In the historic beginnings of the Olympic Games in ancient Greece, athletes would all carry olive branches to the Games as a symbol of peace. While the actual olive branches are no longer an official part of the Games, to this very day the Olympics remain the quintessential expression of international cooperation, human development and progress. Vancouver, Canada is fundamentally synonymous with that traditional spirit of the Olympic Games.

Four years from now, the Winter Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia. Unlike Vancouver, Sochi — and the eastern Black Sea region where it sits — is synonymous with poverty, corruption and violence. The question to ask between now and the closing ceremony of the Sochi Games is: Will the bright glow of the Olympics influence Sochi and its neighborhood positively, or will the unstable character of the region tarnish the Olympic spirit?

As a port to the Black Sea, and home to a beautiful resort, Sochi is a summer destination for Russians and indeed visitors seeking a relaxing getaway from all over the former Soviet Union. There is little surprise that the pristine landscape of the Caucasus Mountains caught the eye of Olympic officials — as well as Josef Stalin, who decades earlier made Sochi his summer retreat — who decided to award the Games to the Russian resort town. Yet Sochi’s palm trees and Krasnaya Poliana’s pristine slopes are only the tip of a dangerous iceberg. [More]

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