The Olympics & Tyranny

Posted on February 7, 2014 by


If you meander around the internet, the Sochi Winter Olympics are starting to dominate the news cycle–and we haven’t even had the opening ceremonies. Most of the coverage has centered on Russia’s poor preparation for the games. As reporters have flocked to the Russian resort, their stories have tilted toward their own experiences with the hotels, and even a lack of pillows in the Olympic Village.

In so many ways, this makes sense. Media members are most able and willing to write about what they personally encounter. And, in truth, Sochi’s condition is probably a step or two down from most Olympic venues. Were I to encounter this coming out of a tap, I would probably tweet it as well.

Garry Kasparov, the former Russian World Chess Champion, is an outspoken critic of the Putin regime. He has taken to social media to excoriate both Putin and the western press’s obsession with the wrong things. Here is a sample of some of his most pointed tweets:

Kasparov’s basic argument is that dictatorships and the Olympics have a long, cozy relationship. Tyrannical regimes long for the Olympics so they might use the games to legitimize themselves on the world stage. The most famous example, of course, is the Berlin Olympics from 1936, where the Nazi’s used the games to downplay their radical ideology. Maybe most critically, Kasparov asserts that the International Olympic Committee makes a political choice when it decides where the games ought to go, so any argument that the games and politics are separate is as hard to stomach as the Sochi water supply.