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Russian tyranny shines light on Olympic debacle

Add the eloquence of the brilliant Stephen Fry and the wry commentary of George Takei to the growing list of those calling for a boycott or move of the Winter Olympics scheduled for next year in Sochi, Russia.

Driving the petitions and critiques are the Russian government’s new anti-gay laws, spearheaded by the increasingly-militant Vladimir Putin.

When the two celebrities joined the fray this week, they added to a long list of those critical of the latest crackdown, not to mention the outright corruption of both the Games and the government. You can also count U.S. President Barack Obama among those decrying the anti-gay legislation.

Homosexuals are only the latest in a series of persecutions attributable to Putin’s hard-line rule.

Fry, in a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron and the International Olympic Committee, decried the Russian legislation, saying allowing Russia to host the Games in 2014 is comparable to allowing the Nazis to do so in 1936.

“An absolute ban on the Russian Winter Olympics of 2014 in Sochi is simply essential,” Fry wrote. “At all costs, Putin cannot be seen to have the approval of the civilized world.”

The IOC has, characteristically, chosen to do nothing, barely acknowledging the backlash, and opting to do and say nothing that would interfere with the most important aspect of the Games: profits for the corrupt few who line their pockets with public money. They hid that under the guise of separating sports and politics.

Fry, of course, was having no part of that: “Let us not forget that Olympic events used not only to be athletic, they used to include cultural competitions. Let us realise that in fact, sport is cultural. It does not exist in a bubble outside society or politics. The idea that sport and politics don’t connect is worse than disingenuous, worse than stupid. It is wickedly, wilfully wrong.”

The hateful Russian legislation aside, there are plenty of reasons why Russia should never have been awarded the Olympics – just as was the case with China in 2008. The country is rife with corruption – fine by IOC standards – and the site, Sochi, so remote that problems were bound to occur. The chances of the Games going off smoothly are rather smaller, even though they are now the most expensive in history at $50 billion … and counting.

The Games and the venue are seen as massive ego boost for Putin, as well as a chance to funnel even more public money into the hands of oligarchs in the country.

That is a constant part of the Games, a good reason to do away with them completely, not just in Sochi. The Olympics are in essence founded on corruption, each event designed to separate taxpayers from their money to enrich a few and providing no real benefit in return.

We’ve all seen enough examples of Olympic costs to know the numbers trotted out in advance are no more than fairy tales. Promised tourism dollars, even if they materialize, are a one-time deal, while the debt payments go on for years.

Even those Games purported to have made money employ creative accounting, forgetting to add in much of the infrastructure and operational costs, such as security, for example, that are covered by governments as a matter of course.

Given that the Olympic ideals have long vanished, if they ever existed, perhaps it’s time to look at doing away with the Games.

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