Twenty minutes into the penultimate night of Olympic competition from Sochi, Bob Costas took a few minutes to highlight today’s gold medal-winning Ukrainian women’s biathlon relay team amid the backdrop of the violence that raged in their home country this week. “There are about 40 Ukrainian athletes in Sochi,” Costas noted. “They requested to compete with black arm bands. That request was denied.”
Costas then talked about the success of the XXII Winter Olympics. Security has held up, venues have been praised and the warmth of the host country has shone through, he said, before tearing into the Russian regime: “While Russian citizens have better lives than Soviet citizens of a generation ago, theirs is still a government which imprisons dissidents, is hostile to gay rights, sponsors and supports a vicious regime in Syria, and that’s just a partial list.”
The Sochi games are Vladimir Putin’s games, from their inception to their conclusion, and all points in between. If they are successful on their own terms, as appears to be the case, then at least in some corners it will help to burnish the image of a regime with which much of the world takes significant issue. No amount of Olympic glory can mask those realities any more than a biathlon gold medal, though hard-earned and deeply satisfying as it is, can put out the fires in Kiev.