The Olympics are a strange beast.
In the lead-up to the Games, we focus a lot of our attention on the host country and how well we think it will welcome the world.
We talk about how prepared it is to host a flood of athletes, sports fans and international media in its spit-shined venues, and we learn about the social and political problems unique to that country.
Then the Opening Ceremony begins and we don’t think about location again until we’re comparing their spectacle to previous host countries.
The Olympics are, for all intents and purposes, an event that can be replicated anywhere there are enough sport venues and hotel rooms to accommodate the events and additional people.
With that in mind, why, then, does the International Olympic Committee bestow the honour of hosting the Games on a country embroiled in human rights controversies? Any number of other countries – including bid finalists Salzburg, Austria and Pyeongchang, South Korea – could have earned the hosting duties.
We remain deeply troubled by Russia’s newly implemented anti-gay laws, which allow that country to arrest or fine anyone who “promotes nontraditional sexual relations.”
The IOC is governed by the Olympic Charter, which completely prohibits discrimination. IOC president Thomas Bach has repeatedly said he’s been assured by President Vladimir Putin that Russia will respect the Charter while the Games are happening. The fact those assurances are necessary should have been reason enough not to award Russia the Winter Games.
But with the competition already underway, that’s a moot point.
Instead, we urge our fellow Canadians to continue having an open dialogue about these injustices through the course of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Take pride in Canada’s athletes as we watch them perform in the coming weeks, but don’t get so swept up that the discrimination being perpetrated in the host country is forgotten.
Canada’s notion of true patriot love must extend beyond our borders. The pride we feel on home soil from being glorious and free should be felt by the citizens of every country, especially at the Olympics, when we’re highlighting fellowship among all.