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.
“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.
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