The Olympics are a way to bring the world together in friendship and competition. They allow countries to show off the best of their best and allow people to enjoy watching some of the greatest athletes in the world. But one of the darker parts of the Olympics is the politics that get intertwined with the games. Being an international event, it is of little surprise that politics sprout up before, during, and after the games have taken place. This year is the 23rd Winter Olympiad, and we get the opportunity to watch incredible sports like ice skating, skiing, hockey, and America’s favorite sport, curling. With the events that have surrounded the Olympics leading up to the opening ceremonies next Friday, I believe that there is potential for the 2018 Winter Olympics to be the most politically charged Olympic games we have witnessed in our lifetimes.
I must clarify why I stated “in our lifetimes” before I go into my reasoning. Looking at the past of the Olympics, there have been many politically charged games, such as the 1936 Berlin Olympics, with the Nazi Party controlling Germany, and the 1968 Mexico City Games, which was preceded by the Tlatelolco Student massacre ten days prior. But the 23rd Olympiad has the potential to be politically charged for different reasons, and we have the chance to observe this as it unfolds.
The first reason that I believe these Olympics will be politically charged is the Russian Federation ban from the games. In early December, the Russian Olympic team was banned from participating in this year’s Olympiad, as it was confirmed that there was a Russian government program for athletes doping. In addition to this, the team has been fined 15 million dollars, and there is the potential of past medals being stripped. Russia has been one of the largest Winter Game contenders for years, and to ban a team with as distinguished and fearsome reputation gives me cause for concern. Russia is one of the most powerful countries in the world, and not viewed in the highest regards in international politics. With incidents such as the Russian military intervention in the Ukraine and allegations of Russia tampering in the United States election process, Russia has proven to be a wild card in international affairs, and I cannot say how Russia will act throughout and after the Olympics, seeing they are not being represented. I do not expect a full-out war from Russia, but I do believe we will see repercussions down the line in the international community. These allegations of a government doping system becoming truth is a damaging blow to the reputation of the Russian government, and it would not surprise me if we see Russia respond with certain economic embargoes or boycotting international events in defiance to being humiliated before one of the largest international events.
The second cause of political strife is the current tension in the Korean Peninsula. With the games being in Seoul, all eyes are on North and South Korea. With the recent nuclear tests that North Korea has been conducting, and the name calling between Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, there is reason to be nervous for these games. But there is also a sign of hope arising from these games. Both Koreas, technically still at war with each other, have agreed to walk together for the opening ceremonies under a neutral flag. As someone who watches international politics, this was a cause for celebration for me. I view this as a way for the two countries to hopefully begin the process towards peace. I am still weary, however, as many of you may be. The leader of North Korea has an unpredictable mentality, and I hold reservations with the temper of Kim Jong Un being unstable and unpredictable. North Korea has been increasing their nuclear weapons program, and tensions are soaring between North Korea and the western world. With the threat of a potential war, I am looking at these Olympics as a way to foster a sense of unity between these two countries, and between North Korea and the world.
The Olympics are more than a big sporting event; they are a world stage for nations. This year is no exception. With scandals hitting Russia and an olive branch between the two Koreas, these Olympics have potential to shape world politics. As impossible as it may seem, with the beacon of hope of the two Koreas, I believe that these Olympics will have a positive influence on the global scale.