Dilemma of Olympian proportions: run it as planned or scrap it altogether?

Russian police know the names of the two suicide bombers who exploded themselves and a number of innocent bystanders in Volgograd last December. They have also arrested two people who, they say, were accomplices.

Nothing is going to happen to Asker Samedov and Suleiman Magomedov any longer. These two have been having their fun with heaven-based virgins since last December.

The killers have allegedly come to Russia proper from the Caucasian republic of Dagestan.

But, here’s a twist. Dagestan just happens to be a member of the Russian Federation. Russian president Vladimir Putin can claim the law of retribution meted out to any and all perpetrators’ families is valid in Dagestan, too. Who cares that Dagestan is a republic, with its own government and its own parliament?

If the Russians send a group of highly-trained cutthroats in and we find out somewhat later that both families have been wiped out, and so has been everything they had ever owned, one can anticipate some kind of an international outcry.

Raise your hand if you think the Russians will care. After all, when Western governments were looking askance at atrocities committed by the Russians in Chechnya, they received a brief message from the Kremlin: we’re defending not only ourselves, but you, too, from the green danger. That danger, thus described, stands for Islam.

And that was the end of the rhetoric. From both sides. Embarrassed silence from the West, “I-told-you-so” silence from Moscow.

Brothers Magomednabi and Tagir Batirov, arrested (and described) by Russian security forces as accomplices, helped the now-late attackers of Volgograd with their travel plans. Thus reports from Russia. How they have done it, the reports do not say. But you can bet your last coin that Russian security interrogators will make these two sing. They will name people who have never heard of Volgograd or the militant Islamist group known as Shariat Jamaat. They will tell all within the first few days of captivity. Methods used against the Al-Quaeda or the Taliban in, say, Guantanamo, are kindergarten sports when compared to what Russian interrogators are capable of using (and perfectly willing to use).

Should anybody think people killing innocent civilian bystanders deserve humane treatment and mention an iota of concern, derision all the way from the Red Square will be the answer they’ll get.

But this is not the real topic.

Debate off the rails

The real topic is that, instead of debating potential winners and losers in individual sporting events, everybody and their dog has been debating terrorist dangers that hang over the Sochi games like the sword of Damocles.

The Russians have introduced security measures that, to some, border on the insane. Whether they succeed and the Olympic Games end without a hitch, well, let’s hope they do. Except: to arrive at the Adler International Airport and find you’ve landed in a region under siege, well, that does not enhance anybody’s celebratory mood.

Even that well-known optimist, Jaromír Jágr, has succumbed to fatalism. The Czech hockey star told Russian newspaper Sovetskii Sport in an interview that nobody has much control over their destiny. “We die when the time comes for us to die,” the paper quoted Jágr as saying.

“If they want to do something,” Jágr went on, speaking about the Islamist insurgents, “they will. There’s going to be many people in Sochi, journalists in particular, and they would write about the attack. Except, things like that can happen anywhere, at any Olympic Games, at any championships. Doesn’t matter if it’s Russia, the United States, or any other country,” he concluded.

Jágr didn’t mention the early September of 1972 and the Munich Olympic Games tragedy. Arab militants managed to get into Israeli athletes’ quarters in the Olympic village. What followed was mayhem and a number of deaths on both sides.

The Olympic village was supposed to be the best-guarded spot in the entire Olympic complex in Munich.

Still, Jágr is optimistic: “I think the entire Russia and Putin himself are so proud of their country, they’ll do whatever it takes to make the games secure. They’ve been waiting for these games since 1980, that’s long enough. I believe they’ll do their best.”

Nice of Jágr to remember the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Following Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, then-U.S. president Jimmy Carter first said then-Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev must have misled him. Carter, you see, asked Brezhnev during a meeting in Vienna whether the Soviets would invade Afghanistan. Brezhnev put his most honest face on and said: What? We? Invade an independent country? Never!

This unmitigated skulduggery would upset Carter no end. In a voice dripping with solemnity, he would order a U.S. boycott of the Moscow games and impose an embargo on U.S. wheat exports to the Soviet Union. Most western countries would toe the line so far as the Olympic boycott was concerned. So far as the wheat exports went, not only would it not have an immediate impact on Soviet economy (the embargo held for future trades), but other countries, Canada chief among them, would pick up the slack. For the record, Pierre Elliott Trudeau was Canada’s prime minister at the time.

And the Soviets retaliated in kind: they (and their allies) would boycott the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

That’s as close as politics would publicly get to the Olympic Games. That the entire business case a.k.a. Olympic Games is as political as anything can get is another issue for another day.

But now, we have politics out in the open. And politics of violence, at that.

When muses speak, weapons fall silent?

Or is it the other way ’round? The original words by Cicero himself say so: Silent enim leges inter arma. Meaning laws are suspended in the clatter of weapons.

Those who love the idea of Olympism are wont to quote the perfectly and innocently naive idea that there should be peace in the valley while the games are on.

Fine. Just imagine: the Sochi zone has been cordoned off from the rest of Russia by now. The demarcation line extends 100 kilometres from the Black Sea coast and a further 40 kilometres into Russian mainland. No vehicles other than those with special permits (local residents require permits, too) are allowed in. Numerous checkpoints throughout the city and its environs will be making sure that only authorized passengers (that is: passengers with another set of proper permits) are sitting in cars they will be letting through. The border with the neighbouring Georgian region of Abkhasia has been closed. Of course, it depends on whom you’re listening to. The Russians claim they’ve sealed Abkhasia off completely. The Abkhasians only smirk and shrug, hinting nobody can seal them off behind an invisible line in the Caucasian mountains.

But who’s the foe, anyway?

One of the main issues: the Russians do not know whom to lash at first. Most of the people in the entire region hate them profoundly. The Russians are now harvesting what they’d been sowing for a few centuries. Locals are now pushing back. And it doesn’t matter at all whether the area around the main hockey arena in Sochi used to be a burial ground for the proudly dead Muslim soldiers or not. It doesn’t matter, even, whether those of today’s insurgents’ leaders who claim it for a fact, believe in it themselves. It just happens to be one more neuralgic point.

What should the Russians do? Yield to the Islamist insurgents? Or should the Islamist insurgents accept that they’d lost their war a couple of centuries ago, nothing doing?

Neither scenario is viable. You just can’t re-write history. If you tried to, it would logically take you to the question of who’d been in Canada BEFORE the arrival of the First Nations on the scene, a question not many have dared ask, and even fewer attempted to answer.

The easiest and fairest solution would have been for the international community to admit that Olympic Games as a celebration of sports is a sham, and has been a sham all along. Except, it has become a business that helps line way too many pockets of the mighty.

And, besides, in the situation of Sochi, scrapping the Olympic Games would have meant surrender, nay, capitulation.

We can only cross our fingers now for the security of the Olympic Games and ignore the challenge for Team Canada to repeat as gold medal winners.

In fact, this is the only thing we can do.

As it is, it’s 1 for the Islamist insurgents of all stripes and colours, and 0 for the rest of the world.


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