The 2014 Sochi Olympics games have started. Unfortunately, issues in Sochi seem to dominate the news about these Olympics.
As an athlete and a coach, I love watching great performances. They represent thousands of hours of practice. Perfect movement is beauty and an illustration of what the human body can do. One part of me would like to ask: "Can we just watch the spectacular beautiful moments and forget about the issues around the Sochi Games?"
I don't think so. I believe we must look at the issues and question what can be done in a constructive and peaceful way, especially taking advantage of the worldwide medias exposure. Sport is a mirror of our society and problems around sport are the same our society is experiencing. Every big event seems to bring its share of security. Sochi is no exception with threats and hacking. Human rights issues exist with the Russian anti-gay laws and ecological problems surface with the huge amount of construction and pollution of rivers, etc.
Unfortunately, the ecological problems and the consequences for the local population seem irreversible. They are the result of an ever-growing size and cost of the Games, as each country always wants to do better than the previous country did. But is bigger better? Can't the Olympic committee have more control over that growth?
On the question of human rights, there is hope that the media's exposure will help make progress, not only for athletes to be safe, but also for Russians to gain more freedom.
These issues not being hidden, sport is still a powerful tool for young people from all over the world to create opportunities for themselves. During the Olympics, young athletes may achieve their dreams, whether it is winning a medal or simply participating, which in most cases is already quite an achievement. Besides what success could bring to their life, they also are about to meet their peers from all around the world and make friends for life.
There is one aspect of the Olympics that I particularly love: the human stories. Beyond their countries of origin and their sports, all athletes have incredible personal personal stories which are fascinating and reveal the interconnectedness of all humans. Some had to overcome failure, losses, injuries and abuse. Their determination and resilience are very inspiring.
This is what the Olympics should be about.