Sochi a perfect facade lacking spirit

Dancers perform a routine designed around a circus at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Games in Sochi Keystone

With the curtain falling on the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, the Swiss media has mixed feelings about the show - perfectly executed but lacking the necessary Olympic spirit, and with any inconvenient political and human rights questions swept under the carpet.

This content was published on February 24, 2014 - 10:55

“Organisationally, the Sochi Games were the best there have ever been,” the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) declared. “[But] the unbridled joy and the sense of enthusiasm of other Games never manifested themselves.”

“By awarding them to Sochi, the IOC sold the spirit of the Games.”

Another NZZ columnist agreed the true spirit of the Games was hidden behind a carefully polished veneer, arguing that “Olympic Games never show the status quo, and Sochi was not Russia.”

This sentiment was echoed by other Swiss papers, especially with regard to the questions of human rights and treatment of the political situation in Ukraine.

Zurich’s Tages-Anzeiger remarked that “the link between sports and politics became especially clear in Sochi” when Ukrainian athletes wanted to wear arm bands to show their solidarity with  those injured or killed in their country’s recent protests and the IOC forbade it.

“Why can IOC representatives tell Ukrainians how to grieve?” the paper


The Tages-Anzeiger also wondered about double standards: if athletes don’t have to express themselves about political issues, they shouldn’t be criticised for doing so.

That was the case when Swiss ski racer Lara Gut and Austrian ski jumper Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, who is married to a woman, publically questioned the Games’ having been awarded to Sochi in view of Russia’s repressive politics and attitudes towards homosexuality.

And in reaction to the request by an IOC spokesperson that “everyone leave their political issues out of the Olympic Park”, the paper wondered why no one questioned the presence of the “active advertisement” that was the House of Switzerland, billed as a project to strengthen political ties between the Swiss and the Russians.

The Le Matin Dimanche newspaper from French-speaking Switzerland chose to focus on the sustainability of the Games going forward, calling on Europe, Asia and North America to each put forward two permanent sites among which the Winter Games could always rotate.

“In this era of pragmatism, the leftover imperialist model of an itinerant spectacle [that is the Games] is only suited to megalomaniac candidates who are removed from the budgetary constraints of our times.”

And Le Temps called the Games a “resounding success” for the Kremlin, with only two downsides: the premature defeat of “the world’s best hockey team” – according to Russian President Vladimir Putin – and the Ukrainian crisis.

In compliance with the JTI standards

In compliance with the JTI standards

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here. Please join us!

If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at

Sort by

Change your password

Do you really want to delete your profile?

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you.

Discover our weekly must-reads for free!

Sign up to get our top stories straight into your mailbox.

The SBC Privacy Policy provides additional information on how your data is processed.