Monday, 10 February 2014


Commentary: Where others see gold, the West rakes muck


The West's relentless disparagement of the Sochi Olympics has been all too familiar even prior to its opening on Friday, which was supposed to be a sporting event but suffered identical political finger-pointing as Beijing did six years ago.

The rhetoric was old-fashioned but not unexpected: alleged corruption, overrunning costs and human rights infringements. That is despite opinion polls, notably one by Gallup, produced headlines like "Russians See Gold in Sochi Olympic Games."

China also witnessed overwhelming domestic support for the 2008 Olympics, but no matter, as Western media bombarded Beijing with negative coverage at the time. The pattern was obvious: play down the consensus and whip up differences when there is ideological or political distance between the West and the Olympic host country.

Granted, the Olympics cannot but put a spotlight on its host, and Sochi is clearly not without headaches. So was Beijing, London, and probably in two years Rio de Janeiro.

However, to magnify troubles under a microscope and pin political tails with a less than glorious agenda is unbefitting for the grand Games. In fact, it appears opportunistic, albeit habitual given the West's track record.

"The Olympics are about building bridges to bring people together," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said wisely at the opening ceremony. "They are not about erecting walls to keep people apart. Embrace human diversity and unity."

Such was the spirit Chinese President Xi Jinping carried to Sochi. It is customary for the Chinese people to offer congratulations upon their neighbors' joyous occasions, Xi said.

China firmly supports Russia in holding the Games, not only manifesting China's respect for sportsmanship and the Olympic ideals, but also providing a timely vote of confidence in a close neighbor and friend.

Such principles, promulgated in China's "new pattern of relationships between major countries," should apply to other international affairs beyond the Sochi Olympic Games.

In stark contrast, Euro-Atlantic leaders have shied away from appearances at the Olympic spectacle to avoid what would - or would not - be characterized as guilt by association. Apparently, politics rather than humanity was on their minds.

Many, including our friends at The Economist, have stoked the memory of the 1980 Moscow Olympics, taking pains to remind the world of the so-called international hostilities evidenced by the absence of a number of heads of state - but not their teams.

The comparison has been revealing. Thirty-four years later, it turns out, Cold-War mentality is alive and well in the West.

Despite the uproar, the Games have now officially kicked off with spectacular music and dance lighting up Sochi.

"Soon enough, attention will turn to the athletes and competition, as it should," The Wall Street Journal opined in a Friday editorial after disparaging the event at length. If only it could have turned sooner.

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