If Vancouverites were given a second chance to experience Olympic glory, would they take it? To be more specific, would they take the “opportunity” with just six months to go until the Games are scheduled to begin? A petition has been circling over the internet calling for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to relocate the 2014 Olympic Winter Games from Sochi, Russia to Vancouver, Canada.
The petition on Change.org has been online for just a few days and has already passed its goal of 5,000 signatures and is nearing 6,000. It is the latest from the international LGBTQ community’s response to the recently enacted Russian anti-gay “propaganda” laws which have brutally and violently cracked down on the country’s openly public homosexuals.
The laws have also encouraged a surge in homophobic sentiments among Russians and has even caused a steep increase in harassment and violent crime against the nation’s gay youth. Russia has gained widespread international attention and criticism over its anti-gay crackdown laws and police inaction on violent activity against LGBTQ individuals. Like Beijing 2008, the IOC is once again receiving international pressure to ensure the freedom and safety of LGBTQ athletes and visitors during the Sochi 2014 Winter Games.
It is not known which individual or organization started the petition, and while it is well-intended the likelihood of the relocation of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games from Sochi to Vancouver or any other relatively recent previous Winter Games host city is remote to none. In fact, the Games would have a much better chance of being canceled entirely before it is relocated to another host city in another country.
The entire idea is moot, but we will further expand on this idea of relocation through a theoretical perspective and analysis. Here is the letter that has been attached to the online petition:
To: Jacques Rogge, President – International Olympics Commmittee (IOC)
Please relocate the 2014 Winter Games to Vancouver In 2010 they successfully held the games. The facilities are already in place and can be made, with support, ready in the limited time period to host another games. We appreciate your efforts in requesting Russia allow gay athletes to compete at the games, but this is not enough. The very nature of the original Olympics was to settle conflict through sport and not violence. You are now presented to adopt this stance as an organisation by removing the Games away from Russia, telling them we, the world, will not tolerate the abhorrent persecution of minority groups.
Sincerely, [Your name]
The 2014 Games are scheduled for next February: in just six months. It may be true that pristine sports venues already exist in Vancouver and Whistler, but it still takes many years to plan and organize one of the largest and most complex international sporting competitions in the world. It took seven years (since July 2003) for Vancouver to plan its 2010 Games, and even longer if you include the planning that occurred during the bid phase.
There are a whole myriad of reasons why the Games will not be relocated, but here are a few major points:
- Considering the scope of the event, even for the most recent Winter Games host city with pre-existing sport venues, a six month period to organize and prepare for the Games is just not possible. This would require reconverting facilities into Olympic venues, assembling a large workforce of full-time staff and volunteers, acquiring the funding needed to cover operational expenses of the event, planning the logistical operations of the Games and its security, and a few thousand other on-the-ground “repeat” host city reasons that include booking tens of thousands of hotel rooms, changing travel plans for the media, athletes, spectators, allocate and sell millions of event tickets, etc. Even for the countries known for their stellar efficiency, with six months to go it would not be possible at all to deliver.
- For the IOC, short of an aggressor country committing genocide or a full all-out-war on another country, it would set precedent that it would be willing to [officially] politicize the Olympic Games. This is not a precedent the IOC, from its business and operational point of view, would want to set for its future events. The Olympic Games should be about sport and friendly competition first and foremost.
- Billions in sponsorship and television rights revenue could be jeopardized with such a colossal 11th hour change of the host city. It would be a legal nightmare.
- The Russian government has spent an estimated US $50-billion on the Sochi region to prepare the urban area of 350,000 to host the 2014 Winter Games. That figure is more than ten times the budget allocated by the three levels of government for Vancouver 2010, and it is even more than what China spent for Beijing 2008. Some of Russia’s wealthiest corporations and oligarchs have also invested heavily into the Sochi region and the 2014 Winter Games. The geopolitical and economic repercussions would be staggering if the Games were relocated (or canceled entirely) with Sochi 2014 Games preparation and organization so far in advance.
The backlash by Russia with relocation or even a boycott by many countries would be unimaginable and it would put Russian LGBTQ individuals in further peril. Short of the impossible of campaigning to relocate the Sochi 2014 Games or to request for boycotts (which only hurts the athletes whom have trained for many years for their moment to compete in the Games), LGBTQ athletes and individuals should be highlighted for their feats and accomplishments during the Games.
The Olympic Games have been relocated or canceled altogether in the past. World Wars led to the IOC’s cancellation of the 1916 Berlin Summer Games, 1940 Tokyo Summer Games; Sapporo/Garmisch-Partenkirchen Winter Games, and 1944 London Summer Games/Cortina d’Ampezzo Winter Games. For the 1980 and 1984 Summer and Winter Games, large-scale nation-sanctioned boycotts prevented the participation of many athletes from competing.
Only one city has ever decided to opt out of hosting the Games on its own terms: Denver decided to withdraw from hosting the Olympics four years before it was scheduled to host the 1976 Winter Games. Ultimately, the Games went on in Innsbruck, Austria, which also hosted the 1964 edition.
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Featured image: s.yume