7
Feb

The Geopolitics of Sochi

Written on February 7, 2014 by Waya Quiviger in Europe, International Conflict, Terrorism & Security, Op Ed

sochiThe founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Courbetin, had a vision that athletic competitions would attenuate geopolitical ones. Sport, he believed, could cut across cultures and thereby foster amity in the international realm. Accordingly, he worked for the revival of the athletic competitions of the ancient Greeks: the Olympic Games. To popularize the modern version of those games and build an intercontinental following, he championed the rotation of the games among different national hosts every four years. Today, as de Courbetin might have wished, the Olympic movement is a truly global phenomenon. Nations around the world strive to burnish their reputations through participating in the games, winning medals at them, and, above all, by hosting the games. When holding the games on its soil, a country takes the world stage to showcase itself.

Yet de Courbetin’s vision has been realized only partway. While the Olympic Games do generate goodwill and international good-feeling, they also occasionally aggravate international tensions by serving as a platform upon which countries play out rivalries and indulge their vanity, reveal their insecurities, and expose their grudges, as the 1936, 1972, 1980, and 1984 games illustrate. The Frenchman’s aspirations notwithstanding, the games sometimes exacerbate rather than ameliorate animosity.

The 2014 Winter Olympics, too, may well deepen international acrimony, and do so to the detriment of United States foreign policy. The 22nd Winter Games will take place next month in the picturesque port of Sochi.  A resort town on the Black Sea blessed with a subtropical climate and the presence of alpine mountains just thirty-seven miles outside the city, Sochi would seem a superb location for a winter sporting event. In addition, the games have the express and enthusiastic backing of the host country’s head of state. Read more…

Michael A. Reynolds, a Senior Fellow of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, is an Associate Professor in Princeton’s Department of Near Eastern Studies, where he teaches courses on modern Middle Eastern and Eurasian history, comparative empire, military and ethnic conflict, and secularism.

Originally published by the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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[…] The founder of the International Olympic Committee, Pierre de Courbetin, had a vision that athletic competitions would attenuate geopolitical ones. Sport, he  […]

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