<editor’s note: This is an opinion piece which presents one opinion on the Sochi Paraylmpics situation, there are of course many others. Do you agree? Disagree? Should sport and politics mix? The comment section is open at the bottom of the page.>
The Paralympics at Sochi in Russia are just about to begin. 570 Athletes, and approximately another 1200 officials, families, team support and media make up an estimated 1700 attending the event.
Sochi is 300 miles from Crimea, and we are all aware of what is happening in Ukraine.
“This feels like a great environment for the Games,” said Paralympics GB chief executive Tim Hollingsworth.
“We are in constant touch with the government, foreign office and the [British] embassy here in Russia.”
He added: “[We] have all the plans in place should any circumstance arise.”
The Ukrainian Paralympic Committee president Valeriy Suskevich confirmed earlier that his country will take part in the Sochi Paralympics.
Suskevich has also asked Russia President Vladimir Putin to ensure there is peace in Ukraine during the Games. However, he warned that any escalation of military conflict would result in the team leaving Sochi. “I declare that should this happen we will leave the Games,” he added. “We cannot possibly stay here in this case.”
These athletes have worked long and hard to get to Sochi and represent their country, and show the world that disability is no handicap to success. no matter what country they represent.
Politicians have already stated that they are not going to cooperate with Russia on the preparatory talks at Sochi for the G8 Summit. Reports from various news agencies are stating that the British, Canadian, USA and other delegations have pulled out of the Games.
So the politicians, as usual, have made their stand. They will be safe and sound, back in their offices, having thumbed their noses at Putin. As if he cares, and to be cynical I doubt if he cares about Mr Suskevich asking for peace during the Games. Putin knows that he can do as he pleases. Russia can give all the assurances it likes to the Paralympians, but seeing the cynical, ruthless and cold efficiency of this conflict, starting as soon as the Winter Olympics were over, does not fill me with reassurance. I find this 19th century style ‘Gunboat Diplomacy’ chilling.
Let’s hope then, that no athletes, no matter their nationality, are taken hostage, harassed by Cossack Militia or allegedly ‘put into protective custody’ or detained for their own safety.
This is the present advice on travel to Ukraine and Sochi from the Foreign Office. They say it is ok to travel-apart from to the Crimea. Except that the Politicians feel it is not ok for them or for their official delegations.
However, nobody can predict what will happen in Sochi, in this frenzied atmosphere of nationalism, propaganda, lies and manipulation of the press and media.