Week 24 (1 - 7 March 2014)
US speed skater Eric Heiden’s famous quote about sport and politics has been strongly echoed by International Paralympic Committee President Sir Philip Craven this week, forcing politically-focused sports media to rapidly call off their search for a sound bite on the Ukraine crisis and to start talking about the action about to get underway in Sochi - involving 575 athletes from 45 countries competing in 72 medal events across five sports over a 10-day period.
Heiden’s statement, said in relation to the US’s boycott of the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, was abrupt: “sport and politics don’t mix.” Craven’s version is less severe, telling Russia Today in a live television interview that “my philosophy is ‘sport and politics should not mix.’”
With this statement, Craven, who is an IOC member, made his position abundantly clear but also showed how the Olympic Movement has no intention of shutting itself off from the world and its problems.
IOC President Thomas Bach has also outlined this approach, stating in numerous speeches around the world that sport should be “politically neutral without being apolitical.”
Although Bach’s and Craven’s comments deliberately allow for nuances, the media know that they are not going to have much joy enquiring about them for the next 10 days as Craven has said “we're here for the sport and we'll let the politicians deal with the politics."
Craven’s media engagements this week have shown his determination for the media spotlight to transfer seamlessly from the Olympic Winter Games to the Paralympic Winter Games, without any political interlude.
His firm media stance has achieved this and he can now watch excitedly, with the rest of the world, as the XI Paralympic Winter Games begin.