Olympic Games no longer about unity

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

In a little more than two weeks, the 2014 Winter Olympics are set to open in Sochi, Russia, and the lead-up to the big event has demonstrated vividly just how far the Games have strayed from their ideals over the past 120 years or so.

The modern Olympic Games were inspired by a similar gathering in ancient Greece that brought members of various

city-states together at the sanctuary of Zeus in Olympia, thus giving the event its name. These gatherings, held every four years from about the eighth century B.C. to about the fourth century B.C., were notable because according to legend hostilities among these often-at-odds city-states were suspended during the games.

The modern Olympic Games were created with this ideal in mind — as a place where people of various nationalities can come together in the spirit of unity devoid of the differences created by political boundaries. Indeed, even the symbol of the Olympics itself, five intertwined rings, symbolize the unity of the denizens of each of the earth’s major landmasses.

Increasingly, however, the Olympics have brought out anything but unity as different nations and political factions use this global stage to make political statements.

Over the years, various boycotts of the Olympic Games have taken place. The U.S. famously boycotted the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. The U.S.S.R. returned the favor in 1984.

Protests have often not been so peaceful, however. Various acts of violence have marred the modern Games, the most well known of which involved the 1972 Munich Games, where 11 members of the Israeli delegation were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. Terrorism of the domestic variety stained the 1996 Atlanta Olympics when Eric Rudolph planted a pipe bomb that killed one and injured many more.

Now, security questions surround the already controversial choice of Sochi for the Winter Games. Militant Muslim groups have vowed violence at the games, and several incidents in the region have already occurred. This comes after statements and actions by Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, had already lent a contentious air to the event.

Perhaps it is too much to

ask that everyone put aside

his or her differences for two weeks every two years, but at this rate, the International Olympic Committee will have to rethink it choice of symbol if not the very existence of the Games itself.