Finn: Olympic committee should have taken Sochi’s civil rights laws into consideration

Taylor Finn

It is an event that countries all around the globe want to host. It can boost the local economy, showcase what that particular country has to offer and bring thousands of foreign visitors to their territory. The Olympic Games have become an honorable tradition that brings people of all different ethnicities, social classes and ideologies together for a period of time to engage in some healthy competition.

It is an undeniably significant, historical even, that the Olympics carry a lot of importance, and should be hosted by a city that is prepared and deserving. The process which a city goes through to win the hearts of the National Olympic Committee is grueling and extremely time consuming. It takes many years for the Committee to finalize their decision on who the perfect host country should be.

The process to choose the host for the 2014 Winter Olympics was no less extensive and began in July 2005. All the cities who are interested place their bids, and from there the Committee begins to narrow down their options. After the first cut was made seven cities were left in the running to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. One of those cities as most of you are aware was Sochi, Russia.

I was interested in what exactly the committee looks for when making their decisions. After a bit of handy googling I found that the committee has a list of categories that are all weighted differently. Each bidding city is judged in each category, the final scores are tallied and compared. Some of these categories are government support, general infrastructure, sport venues and accommodation. This is just a handful of the categories, and out of these accommodations holds the greatest weight whereas governmental support holds the least amount of weight.

Then I did a little research about Sochi’s Olympic bid to see what attributes Sochi had that the other cities did not, and what categories they did especially well in. First of all, they are a resort city on the Black Sea. This proves to be an advantage because Sochi has ample hotel space for the many people that come to take part in and watch the Olympics. There is a ski resort in Sochi that is perfect for the obvious winter events that take place outside on the slopes. The third advantage Sochi had over its competitors was the strong public and political support for the Olympic Games. When looking at this set of traits Sochi most definitely looks like an appropriate choice.

However, I wonder if the committee took into account the many disadvantages to choosing a city like Sochi as a host for the Winter Games. I mean sure they may have plenty of nice hotels but I am not sure that the gay athletes are going to be too thrilled to enter a country where the current legislation is that if you even publicly mention the fact that you support same-sex marriage you can be faced with jail time.

I will cut the National Olympic Committee a bit of slack and recognize the fact that foreseeing the future is an impossible task, and predicting that the anti-gay sentiments would become such a problem is difficult. However, this anti-gay legislation has been in place since 2003, so they were more than aware of its existence. At what point will the Committee add civil rights to the list of categories it judges a city on. I think in order to be given the honor of hosting the Olympics, cities need to respect their citizens’ civil liberties. Sending someone to jail for their opinion is simply not acceptable, and I think the National Olympic Committee should weigh that much higher than whether or not the city has enough hotel space.

Sochi is most definitely not the first city with subpar civil rights laws to host the olympics. However, I am hoping that after witnessing the struggles surrounding Sochi and their current anti-gay legislation the National Olympic Committee will begin to judge cities not only on how great their ski resort is, but also on how developed their civil rights laws are.