Friday 02 Dec 2016

On to Sochi
Bob Stark

Essentially, it is not three singers from Pussy Riot who are on trial here.... It is the entire state system of the Russian Federation.... which unfortunately for itself, thoroughly enjoys quoting its cruelty towards human beings, its indifference to their honour and dignity, the very worst that has happened in Russian history to date.

Nadia ToloKonnikova, Pussy Riot, 2012

I'm thinking Nadia needs to read a little more Russian history. Nevertheless, there is no doubt funny things have been happening on the way to Sochi and the 2014 Winter Games. Recently, Vlad, The Jailer, has released from prison: the remaining members of the imprisoned rock group 'Pussy Riot'; the 30-odd Greenpeace protesters, who didn’t warrant arresting, in the first place; a Siberian trainload of other political ‘enemies of state.’

No muss, no fuss, just get them on the bus. It’s all in a day's work for the average Plutocrat.

In the lead-up to the 2014 Winter Games, the Po Mo post-Bolshevik Boy Wonder has been busy cleaning up the country's image to impress foreign dignitaries and the international TV world before someone shouts "Let the Games begin!"

The Russian leader has been at the microphones almost daily now reassuring everybody that, despite the country's antiquated anti-gay laws, there'll be a welcoming mat on the Russian steppes for all, no matter their sexual orientation, unless maybe they should talk to and thus corrupt little children.

Propaganda pap for the paparazzi.

I suspect we may see that good ole Ras-cal-Putin riding his white horse into Olympic stadium, sans shirt, egotistically flexing his muscles and strutting his bod like a modern day Cossack, out on a little gay-bashing pogrom. Out will come the Shashka saber, which he will raise to the fluttering hammer and sickle, while o'er the arena will fly military-controlled drones replete with an engraved picture of Robert Di Nero and a caption "I'm watching you."

The news stories I've seen on the security apparatus being put in place all around Sochi, in the water, under the water, in the mountains and so forth, is like something out of a James Bond movie! Goldfinger would be impressed.

Everybody will have 'Call Waiting' installed on her or his phone, meaning that when you pick up and use your phone, there'll be a KGB operator waiting to intercept and redirect your call.

Of course, here in Canada, things are a little different. Some fellow shows up at the airport with a pipe bomb and the security personnel have a boo, hand the pipe bomb back to the dude, with a polite and happy "The Tim's is on the left, have a nice day boy.”

Well, speaking of gold, the estimated budget for these games is now over 60 billion dollars. Tat, to put it mildly, is criminal. Putin put thyself in jail!

Add to that the multiple stories of corruption in creating the venues and highways and other infrastructure for the Games. I'm not sure this is what the original intention of the Olympics.

Well, we've been hearing the same stories about the World Soccer event this coming summer in Brazil. These International Sporting events are starting to make the NFL Super Bowl look like a day out at a country fair in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Ya dare not get in the way of Big Money. It'll run through and over every shantytown or protester with bulldozers and water guns no matter the environmental or other damage.

Our own country has even bowed to the golden calf with its "Own the Podium" program. It's all about winning, no matter the cost. It's, in no small way, a slave camp mentality, with the athletes beholden to the glory of the flag. Funding goes to those who were born with right genes.

Well there is pride in nationhood. Who doesn't like watching highly trained, highly skilled athletes competing on the world stage? Friendly warfare sure beats the shite out of what is going on in Syria and other war zones around the world.

And nowhere is that pride, some might say 'egotism.' shown more in our country than the presentation of the Canadian Men's Hockey Team.  As one fellow apparently tweeted, awaiting the selection of our men's hockey team is a ritual akin to Catholics awaiting the smoke to rise in the Vatican announcing the next Pope. All eyes glued to the television.

Well, concerning the team chosen, Cam Cole wrote in his newspaper column that some of the chosen are a bit old and got older still, sitting through the speeches. The whole ceremony had a certain resonance to a North Korean propaganda parade in front of Jimmy-Ill Cracked Cornball Son or whatever the name is of that country's dictatorial leader.

How many senior bureaucrats and NHL management personnel does it take to select and announce our men's hockey team? Apparently them all!!

Does anyone care that the women's hockey team has actually won three gold medals in a row? Apparently, that stellar record seems to have escaped Hockey Canada. Did I miss something? Didn't the powers-that-bean traditionally announce the women's team as well? I suspect announcement of the women's team on the local Orillia cable television show as part of their weekly coverage of bingo games in church basements.

As for the chosen to represent Canada's in Men's Ice Hockey, I will not be two-faced but merely risk the accusation of revisionist thinking and a possible jail term in the Gutenberg Gulag by lamenting the non-selection of Martin St. Louis.

I do so not in any reconsideration of my original reasoning why I felt that he would not make the team. His little legs, as fast as they may be, and his overall vertically challenged size, shrimps look down on him, would not, er, stand-up over so many games in so few nights.

So then, what is the basis for my newfound reasoning and revisionist thinking? We should not ever fall into the trap of the "winning at all cost" mentality. This was a hockey decision from or by fellows who operate at the highest level of private enterprise competition. Their analysis under that parameter is valid. It is how I made my own selections. You don't pick an 'All-Star' team and some gifted players are left eating chips and dip at home.

It's a huge but, but there should be room on an Olympic team roster for the fellow pacing outside the building every morning for four years holding up the 'Eager and Willing' placard. I suspect all Canadian NHL hockey players are good for their word that they feel honoured to represent their country at any International event, especially the Winter Olympics. Alas, I doubt you'd find one more eager and willing to do so that St. Louis. No one has been as eager and willing to display and improve his talents in order to make the Olympic team this year. The most pressing point underlining all that this time is the fact that this is it for the little fellow. At 38, he'll more than likely never be in the running to get the nod again.

Isn't there still a spirit to the Olympics of celebrating certain the willingness to go into battle, for the country to recognize their heart, endurance, contribution to the fabric of the country and its mythological rapture in praise of, and in prayer over, "our game"? Shouldn't there be? What would be wrong with winning a Bronze medal but have Martin St. Louis the tournament's leading scorer? Seriously?

Do we forget the Canadian Olympians that give up their lives; that sacrifice whatever needed to get a place on the Canadian Team? Those who walk boldly and proudly into the Olympic Stadium on opening night, wearing their stupid jackets and hats, waving to the crowd and to all us folks back home, even if everybody knows that the home-grown contestant for the Biathlon is going to place 45th out of 44 competitors?

It is all too sad that in a corporate world, Big Money rules the Games. The IOC is a pathetic organization in its weak-kneed, money grabbing orientation in choosing Putin's Russia for these Games in the first place. Austria already had all the infrastructure and so forth, built and ready to go.

They also should have, probably did know, that Sochi and the surrounding cities were under threat of terrorist attacks and more worrisome, paid lip service to the whole issue of Russia's anti-gay laws, and the Pussy Riot and Greenpeace peaceful protests.

Fortunately the world did not turn a blind eye to it all which eventually forced the Russian leader to compromise, at least long enough to get the damn Games over with, before he'll likely start strutting his Stalinist ways again.

Well, so be it. It is what it is. The Games will go on, in Sochi. Let's two-face it, the history, geography, and architecture on display, along with, hopefully, ongoing tributes to the great Russian writers, musicians, artists, and dancers, will be marvelous to watch.

As for the actual events, rightly or wrongly, as has been the case for some years, the major sporting event will be the Men's Ice Hockey Tournament. In that regard, Canadian coach Ken Hitchcock is probably correct in opining that this will be the greatest hockey ever played.

For now, let's hope the Games in Sochi do not turn into a James Bond movie, or more appropriately, as a reference to real past Olympic life, Munich.

If there is to be a memorable political moment, wouldn't it be great if some medal winner wore a Gay Rights banner around their arm, please. Let's have a 1968-like Tommie Smith and John Carlos Black Power Salute moment.

Somebody do something, peacefully. The Hammer and the Sickle were symbols meant originally to represent the rising of the workers and the peasants, not used, literally, in the suppression and curtailment of basic human rights.

Analysis of our chances on the Olympic ice ponds, for both the men’s and the women's team, will be coming to a computer near you soon.

Nyet, Nyet Soviet; Da, Da Canada!

Bob Stark is a musician, poet, philosopher and couch potato. He spends his days, as did Jean-Paul Sarte and Albert Camus, pouring lattes and other adult beverages into a recycled mug, bearing a long and winding crack. He discusses, with much insight and passion, the existentialist and phenomenological ontology of the Vancouver 'Canucks,' a hockey team, "Archie" comic books and high school reunions. In other words, Bob Stark is a retired public servant living the good life on the wrong coast of Canada.

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