Controversies Surrounding Winter Olympics 2014

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On February 7th, the Olympic torch will reach Sochi, Russia and the 2014 Winter Olympics will begin. Unfortunately for these Winter Olympics, they’ve been plagued by controversies and security concerns which have shifted a lot of the focus away from the actual games.

There are a lot of questions regarding the choice of Sochi because of conflicts that could directly threaten the games. This includes disputes with Circassian nationalists, who have asked the games be moved or cancelled until Russia apologizes for the resolution of the Russian-Circassian War, which the Circassians view as genocide.

Suicide bombings occurring in October and December of 2013 in the city of Volograd have raised concerns over militant jihadist attacks in or around the Caucasus Mountains, where most of the snow sport events will happen. Russia has claimed that the games are safe and the International Olympic Committee has stated they trust the security measures implemented by Russia.

Russia’s laws regarding the LGBT community have also raised questions over the security of LGBT athletes. An attempt to establish a Pride House at the Olympics was shot down by Judge Svetlana Mordovina saying the Pride House incited “propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state and provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity.” This and other human rights controversies have led to some world leaders saying they will not attend the games in Sochi.

Also, cost overruns have been reported to be higher for these Winter Olympics than any of the previous ones (Summer and Winter). This has been blamed on corruption within the Russian government. Valery Morozov alleged that officials around Vladimir Putin wanted and demanded payoffs in exchange for construction contracts for the Olympics. Russian politician Boris Nemtsov claims he has evidence that up to $30 billion of the estimated $50 billion budget for the games went into the pockets of Russian businessmen and officials. Putin has said that, “ there is no corruption problem.”

Even with all the problems in the moths prior to the Winter Olympics, the best part is still yet to come: the actual games. Some highlights to look out for are Shaun White going for his third straight gold medal in the Men’s half pipe, ice hockey tournament, and the Olympic debut of 18-year old Alpine ski racing world champion Mikaela Shiffrin.

Hopefully the focus will start to shift more towards the games, they are able to go on as planned and we can watch some of the world’s greatest athletes compete in the world’s greatest competition.

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