Toronto, land of the untamed politician, provided the perfect lead-in to Friday’s opening ceremony in Sochi.
There, the maligned mayor of North America’s fourth largest city demanded a Pride flag, flown at City Hall to promote LGBTQ rights during the Olympics, be taken down.
“This is about [the] Olympics,” said Rob Ford. “This is about being [patriotic], this is not about someone’s sexual preference.” Ford wasn’t alone. Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong echoed Ford’s message. “It should be about sport and about Canadians,” he told reporters. Fly a Canadian flag. This isn’t about politics.
To the surprise of absolutely nobody, Toronto’s political class is wrong. The Olympics are a political spectacle. No other sporting event combines patriotic chest thumping with geopolitical nonsense so seamlessly. The IOC, global leaders in institutionalized corruption, love the stuff. It gets them into the best parties.
The opening ceremonies at Fisht Olympic Stadium were spell binding. An array of vibrant dance sequences, booming musical numbers and visually stunning pyrotechnics were accompanied by the Parade of Nations, speeches from dignitaries and of course, the lighting of the Olympic flame.
It wasn’t all clean, however, and those who doubt the Olympics’ ability to spew political narratives must not have watched Friday’s extravaganza.