Everything old is new again in Olympic politics. In 1980, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan a few months before the Moscow Summer Olympics. When the IOC refused to move the Games, the US led a boycott that punished athletes and did nothing to free Afghanistan. A few years ago, the IOC sold out to Beijing and tried to convince the world that the Olympiad would bring freedom to China, and has been continually embarrassed by the behavior of the Chinese police and their Olympic coaches.
Now that Russia has invaded yet another neighbor, some have called for the IOC to move the 2014 Sochi Games as a protest over the fate of Georgia. Two Pennsylvania Representatives, Allyson Schwartz (D) and Bill Shuster (R), have led the charge. Hugh Hewitt calls it “obscene” to conduct an Olympics within 30 minutes of the “rape of Georgia”.
Of course, most of us thought it was obscene to have the Olympics this year within sight of Tienanmen Square, especially with the same oppressive government still in place that conducted the massacre of peaceful protestors less than 20 years ago. Clearly, the IOC runs on another set of values. They want big, powerful nations that can deliver lots of cash for big extravaganzas, regardless of whether those showy events fake singing because the actual vocalist has bad teeth or whether their team cheats in gymnastics — let alone whether journalists get unfettered access to the Internet or are safe from arrest for simply covering a protest.
I don’t disagree that the Olympic ideal isn’t sullied by staging the Games in Sochi, and calling for a withdrawal presents at least some leverage, however small, to get Russia to leave Georgia. For this to be successful, though, it would require two factors that simply aren’t present: a Russia that values its standing in the world, and a world that will punish the IOC for being sell-outs. This year has fairly well proven that neither pre-requisite exists.