Sunday, July 08, 2007

Yippee! It's downhill straight to a warzone!

My eyes popped wide open after hearing that Sochi, a Russian resort, was selected to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. The resort is not too far from a declared Georgia-Abkhazia war zone (under 50 kms), and as I wrote a year ago, that figured to be a topic of contention when evaluating Sochi as a host.

Either the Winter Olympic officials are duffuses who don't know the area, or they were bribed. After all, we have witnessed weirdness from the Russians in past Winter Olympics. Remember the 2002 incident when a French judge was pressured to vote for the Russian figure-skating duo over the Canadians? The Russian duo stumbled and slipped their way to a gold medal over the Canadians, who were technically perfect.

But it's still 2007, and we're a good 7 years away from the Winter Olympics. Things can change. It is being reported that Sochi's selection is a reason for Russia and Georgia to reach a peace agreement over Abkhazia, the area of contention for both.

Georgia contends that Abkhazia, a breakaway republic, is its state and that Russia is meddling in its affairs; Russia contends that Abkhazia is an independent republic, and that the Georgians are torturing people and committing atrocities on Abkhaz people.

I earlier described their conflict as two kids fighting over a toy. The theme continues; both Russia and Georgia claim Sochi to be a victory for itself. How and why, I don't really understand. No, Georgia doesn't expect to beat Russia in curling, but it does expect political gains and concessions.

Maybe Georgia believes Russia has to treat it right, otherwise Georgians will create mischief in Abkhazia and keep the world from coming to Russia and Sochi. It's like hosting the Winter Olympics on the Iran-Iraq border.

There's another reason Georgia digs the Sochi victory: It will keep getting oil from Gazprom, the bully gas company that really doesn't care about Eastern European and CIS nations.

Sochi will finally come out of the woodwork of being just a backwater resort, it will put the Caucasus on the map. Hopefully it will bring some peace with it. Georgia and Russia need each other; it's time they both realize it.

But if the combat continues, nobody's going to visit Sochi. Security first, after all.


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