Sports is one of the great equalizers in this life. People of all ages, creeds, nationalities, economic standing and genders play sports around the world. Whether as a profession, using the best equipment in the best facilities, or for the pure joy of it, with make-shift balls in an alley-way — sports are an escape.
Indeed, the modern Olympic Games were founded by Pierre de Coubertin to “contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind, in a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Yet it’s inequality that is being highlighted around the world with upcoming Olympics and World Cups.
After a year off from any major world competition, the Olympics and World Cup return this winter and summer in two of the newly advanced economies of the world: Russia and Brazil.
The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, faces threats of boycotts after Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law earlier this year forbidding the promotion of “nontraditional” families.
The United Nations and European Union have called the law a violation of human rights. And while it can be argued that Russia has in many ways violated the human rights of its citizens (see: Pussy Riot, Alexei Navalny), this particular law is an affront to LGBT athletes from around the world who have trained their entire lives to compete for Olympic glory.
And now they face a choice: give up their dream or compete in a country that would deny their rights.
Brazil is hosting the upcoming World Cup as well as the 2016 Summer Olympics. With a stalled economy, the country is now under duress. Bankers, transport workers, teachers and workers from every strata of society have engaged in strikes to protest the government’s priorities. Instead of social programs to move the nation forward, the government is seen to be funneling resources to large-scale stadium projects for sports-tourists. Much of the country lives in poverty yet the government is sending the message to its people that the facade of a successful economy and country is more important than its actual success.
So why have the selection committees rewarded Brazil and Russia when they don’t even respect their own citizens? The selection committees have tarnished their own brands and violated their own missions. Because of this, host countries of the Olympics and the World Cup get to use these major sporting events as a showcase.