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Júlíana Björnsdóttir's picture

So, it’s February once again and this time it’s 2014. Yes, 2014, the year of the Sochi Olympic controversy and the Brazil 2014 World Cup.

By now, our weekends are already occupied with live broadcasts from a variety of events. My absolute favorite is the figure skating competition. It’s really been a great few days of watching the enchanting world of ice dance, both short and long programs.

When I was a child, there was no such thing as figure skating in Iceland. If there had been, I would have practiced, no doubt..

Today, the sport is practiced in Iceland and we even have the odd retired figure skater that trains a new generation of youth that is starting to show potential.

It is strange to imagine how long it took the sport to make a name for itself in Iceland. In my mind, it is a powerhouse sport and an art form in its own right. It’s the kind of sport that should, it seems, be practiced in Iceland. After all, it’s Ice-land.

Skating on ice certainly would have been a great skill to possess in this land that for the last few weeks has resembled an ice rink.

The young figure skaters in Iceland no doubt handled the natural rink that was our streets much better than the rest of us. And who knows, maybe we’ll have a contestant in a future winter Olympics competing in the sport.

But for now, we have the pleasure of enjoying the simple beauty of the sport during the Olympics.

But unfortunately, this Olympics is tainted with more than just athletic honor. The controversy behind stories of workers being treated poorly and the grand issue of gay rights is hard to ignore, and Icelanders are as conflicted about how to feel about the Olympic Committee’s choice of location. 

Sometimes, sport events  help to make a change in a community, to bring it closer together and help it take a positive step forward in resolving internal issues.

Many official attendees are choosing to take a stand against the injustice dealt out to members of the gay community in present day Russia, and our Minister of Education, Science and Culture, Illugi Gunnarsson, wore a rainbow scarf in an while attending an event. And he is not the only one. Our president attended Putin’s gathering, many leader declined the offer.

A shadow is inadvertently and unfairly cast on the athletes.

It can be said that the World Cup in Brazil this year is as controversial with stories of corruption and construction accidents. My own sources in Brazil have reported a few internal problems resulting from lack of funding in the public system.

The world is asked once more what ethical values we as humanity want to place on sporting events.

Or is it possible that grand sporting events positively influence a corrupt country? I felt a change in the atmosphere in South Africa after the 2010 World Cup, with a sense of revival and hope for a better future seemed within reach.

I am, however, as conflicted as the next person about the ethical questions now posed to the Olympic community as this magical sport event takes place. Athletes are supposed to be celebrated for their great skills in the games, not political forces.

All the incredible athletes I watched this weekend delivered one extraordinary performance after another, and have trained harder than most of us are able to imagine to get where they are today.

Corruption, bribery and human rights violations are terrible conflictions. We say we want to make a change and see these horrible patterns of humanity become an ugly past.

But we do not know how to make the change. How do we kill corruption with justice for all and respect for diversity?

We can’t ignore what is wrong. And we can’t voice our opposition only during a sporting event. The Olympics are a bubble currently bursting from the publicity, providing an opportunity to start a dialogue that hopefully leads to a more just world.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – julianabjornsdottir@gmail.com

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.