For the first time in 13 years, the hallowed flame that graces each Olympic Games burned under a new watchful eye, as new International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach presided over his first Olympiad at the recent Sochi Winter Games.
The German-born Bach was elected to the post in September of 2013, taking over for former president Jacque Rogge. A Belgian, Rogge presided over six Olympic games beginning with Salt Lake’s Winter Olympics in 2002. A scandal amongst the judges in the figure skating competition provided the darkest black eye on those games, yet overall it was considered a great success and continues to benefit the local economy for the State of Utah, according to this local Salt Lake newspaper.
Needless to say, a much greater amount of concern preceded Bach’s initial games. Much of it centered on the harsh anti-gay Russian attitude of its government and citizens. Reports of additional threats of terrorism and multiple bomb strikes in the greater Sochi area just a month prior to the games also contributed to the public concern and brought on discussions that entertained the possibility of both boycott and abstinence from competing in the games for the sake of athlete safety.
The Games have since ended, and no terrorist strikes, violent rallies or movements, or any other potential threats to public safety occurred during the days of competition. In that sense, Thomas Bach’s first Olympic games were successful, or as he himself put it, “excellent,“ proving wrong all those who were skeptical of the games at the beginning.
There still are many, however, who would strongly contend with Bach’s declaration of success to the Sochi games. What about the significant lack of world leaders present at the games, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and United States President Barack Obama?
And What about Bach’s disallowing of the Ukrainian athletes to show their support for the victims in the wake of their mother country’s recent rioting and fatal violence? Bach’s unwillingness for their minor uniform alterations that express support is made only slightly less harsh by his commending the Ukrainian athletes as possessing “great dignity.”
And what about the thousands of domestic-turned-stray dogs, which, after being displaced from their Russian homes for the sake of last-minute construction of Olympic housing, are left to roam the villages and streets, and have been even threatened with mass extermination. This injustice has particularly aroused the compassion of many athletes from America and around the world towards the homeless animals, and in turn has cast another dour light on the host city.
No, there were no threats to the public safety, as had been alleged. But plenty of issues still circulated and continue to circulate over the Sochi games this past month, and a fair amount of the criticism has made its way to Bach. And while it would be in the new IOC President’s best interests to make his next Olympiad, the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, an even greater “success”, not even that is off to a good start. Multiple reporting outlets have deemed Brazil in scramble-mode already to prepare for their hosting opportunity, and some call it a long-shot that they will be ready.