Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Speaking of the Olympics and Human Rights

Andrea made the point earlier this week that perhaps by allowing the Olympics to take place in a less than "free and democratic" country, we may well help promote the respect for human rights and the rule of law by casting such a massive spotlight on the host country. In light of recent events, it's worth pointing out that Sochi, Russia has been selected as the host of the winter Olympics in 2014.

If you click the city's name above, you'll note that Sochi is quite close to the (never on Google, contrary to speculation) Georgian region of Abkhazia, one of two main battle zones in the past week's war. Also worth mentioning is the tradition of declaring an "Olympic truce" every two years during the summer and winter games.

Take a wild guess as to two of the most egregious violators of the Olympic truce during the 2008 games. That's right, Georgia and Russia. And yet, Russia is slated to host the games in 2014, within spitting distance from Georgia.

It's one thing to use the Olympics as a way to nudge less progressive regimes into the fold of international legal norms, but it's quite another to allow the games to go forward in a country that has flagrantly violated the very basic tenets of Olympism. (Granted, one could argue that Salt Lake City shouldn't have hosted the 2002 games and that London shouldn't host the 2012 games because of the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively, during those events or when those countries were selected as hosts.)

So does this mean that Sochi is scrapped and we go back to the drawing board for 2014? It probably should, especially if the IOC wants to polish up the tarnish laid upon its image as a result of the Beijing games and all the mess that has come with them. Chances are though, convenience will trump ethics, and everything will go right along as planned.


Prince Gomolvilas said...

Perhaps some naive questions, but:

Are there ANY countries that would be viable places to host the Olympics that are ALSO completely free of human rights violations or war crimes or other egregious acts?

To what extent are some acts temporarily "forgivable" to allow for the Olympics, and are different levels and intensities of "violations" easily distinguishable?

jterry said...

Two very important questions. On the first point, I'll just go with the top three countries on the Global Peace Index, for convenience, mostly: Iceland, Denmark and Norway.

On the second question, the answer is far more complex, and the best I can do is take a stab at it in some general way. In the "forgivable" category, I would place things ranging from peacekeeping/peace enforcement/cease-fire monitoring to low-level counterinsurgency operations. In the "violations" category would be large scale wars (internal or external), major atrocities, and violations of sovereignty (without prejudice to international interventions under the responsibility to protect doctrine) and international law.

Steven said...

Beijing, please move on. The next guy in line is London. I hope London can respect the minority rights and grant full autonomy to Northern Ireland, the Falklands, Gibraltar, Wales and Scotland. Welcome to the land of football hooligans and street-peeing, drunken Brits!

And this is from USA, the country who committed mass murder of native indians and completely wiped out many tribes in their entirety.

Free Hawaii !
Free Texas !!
Free Guantanamo Bay prisoners!!!