After Jamie Sale and David Pelletier, the Canadian Figure Skaters, the second place winners in the current Olympics, had protested and were granted another set of gold medals, Mr. Pelletier made a widely watched statement in front of TV cameras to the effect that the pair was not after the gold as much as wanted justice and the whole thing was a matter of principle and to the benefit of the Olympic Movement. Is that so? So what are the Olympic ideals Mr. Pelletier referred to and said he stood for and why are they so vulnerable that may be irreparably damaged unless handled conscientiously?
The Olympic Oath spoken at the opening ceremony reminds athletes of the Olympic ideals, which amount to that, I quote, 'the competition should be friendly and fair, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, and participating in the games is more important than winning.' All the other Olympic traditions reflect these basic ideas.
The Olympic flame symbolises international unity and understanding. Lit, as it used to be thousands of years ago, in the ancient site of Olympia, it is carried by relay to the Olympic stadium where the main flame that burns throughout the games is lit from it. The Olympic Flag has five interlinked rings on it that symbolise the five continents of the world whose representatives take part in the competitions. The colours of the rings, red, yellow, black, green and blue include at least one colour from the flag of each participating country.
May one possibly see or imagine a hint in these principles of any preferential treatment being due to whatever country, hosting the event or not? Not at all. That any preference given to any one participant or any injustice done contrary to the above principles means the beginning of the end of the Olympic movement is meant literally. This seems rather obvious yet why not briefly substantiate this statement anyway?
The first terrible, though least important consequence of the demarche done by the Canadian figure skaters is the funny impression that now may be shared by many, amounting to that whatever one's position in the table, all one has to do to raise it is cry and scream a bit. Sounds like kindergarten, does it not?
What is far more aggravating is that from now on Olympic judges may not as much pay attention to the performance of the competitors as think about the political, financial, business and other implications of any decision they make. They will probably think of their possible rejection next time, whatever their qualifications. It is much easier for a judge to admit he or she mistakenly pushed a wrong button than to stand up for his or her decision and face the consequences. And indeed this does very much look like the end of the athletic competition called Olympics and the beginning of simply a grotesquely large advertising campaign instead.
Anyone who grew up watching Olympics and believing that the games were the only thing still left somewhat untouched in the world of the overwhelming commercialisation and politicisation of everything, should have been personally appalled by the shameful behaviour and ridiculous statements made by the salesmen from sports. As much as everyone is proud of the achievement of the two Russian skaters, Elena Berezhnaya and Anton Sikharulidze, one is probably also saddened by that they found it possible to give in to the unprecedented compromise and congratulate the Canadians on getting what they had cried and screamed for. No one should care how many medals the Canadian pair may have in their home collection. Had they received the second set from the hands of those friendly compatriots who had suggested they made two exact copies of the gold Olympic medals for them, the whole matter could have been just shrugged away. But they received the second set of the medals from the hands of the Olympic Committee while standing in the middle of the place where they had visibly proved in front of everyone they were not good enough to have it.
And what if they had been good enough and the judges made a terrible mistake? No one should doubt for a moment that once a decision of this magnitude and consequence is made it must stand, unless someone deliberately seeks to compromise the whole idea of Olympic games. No wonder the Chinese third place winners refused to have any part in the surrogate ceremony.
This was not the end of it. The latest incident concerned Olga Korolyova, a Russian acrobatic freestyle ski jumper who, while being the undoubted leader and despite her obvious perfection, found herself without any medal whatsoever. This happened after two of the judges gave her 3.0 marks, the rest of them unanimously coming up with 6.0. In this case, anyone must agree that the two judges were far out of line and most definitely not conscientious. And of course, this was also a threat to the very existence of Olympic games, as we know them. The Russians protested, of course, yet they did that quite in line with what Viktor Gusev, the Russian TV observer at the games, would later say on camera, 'Trying to revise the unfair decisions of judges is a far worse evil than the misjudgement itself'. So Russian protestors did not demand that the results be revised. They just expressed their regret and the opinion that the system better be perfected not to allow such obvious arbitrariness in the future.
Whatever anyone may think of this, if Olympic games with all their principles are lost, everyone will lose a whole lot, whether we realise it now or not. This, of course, includes all the Salesmen from sports, because they too, after all, are human or at least humanoid, whatever makes them impenetrable to the obvious. And what is obvious, at least to some, amounts to the simple fact that we cannot sacrifice some of the Olympic ideals and save some others. We can only keep or lose the whole thing.
When watching movies like the Terminator, one sits back, with one's popcorn or without it, and enjoys not really living in the terrible world of murderous robots. Isn't now the time for all of us to wake up and see that the terrible world is right at our thresholds, preparing to rudely enter our lives, that is, unless we keep and preserve as many our naive dreams, such as the Olympics, as we possibly can.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated