Racism on the background of the Winter Olympics

10.02.2014
Эта запись так же доступна на: Russian

As Winter Olympics started in Sochi, several billion people were watching broadcasts, as we were told. Critical voices were supposed to hush at the sight of this greatness – winners shouldn’t be judged, a lot was built (have respect for the work of the builders!), athletes have come (think about them!) and the country can be finally proud of itself (shame on you, spiteful critics!).

But still we think it was high time to remind of some marginal events, which took place in the past. As the great construction in Sochi started, the city’s mayor Mr.Pakhomov publicly demanded during one of the meetings at his office in the presence of media reporters that Roma and homeless people should be driven out of the city because they spoil the sight of the Olympics. In order to do that he proposed to enroll them all for construction works for free and then they would leave by themselves. (See report in Russian). This was already a long time ago, back in 2009, but this case became the subject of a legal investigation against the mayor: Pakhomov was even interrogated, the minutes of the meeting were studied and even though he tried to claim that he never mentioned the Roma people, it was proven that he did. Although the case was fast forgotten in Russia, the UN Committee on elimination of racial discrimination learned about it and already in January 2013 as the official Russian report was considered at its session, a question was raised: Was the mayor prosecuted for his statements? The Russian delegation was alarmed and had to call Sochi in order to learn whether anything happened or not. UN Committee officials were assured that the case was under control and that a report on this would be presented later. The Committee asked to provide a report in a year’s time (that is about when the Olympic games were to start) and the issue of mayor’s statements was labeled an important and urgent one (unlike the rest of the reports, which could have been left for the year after).

But there will be hardly anything relevant to report about Mr. Pakhomov’s case, though. Nobody has prosecuted him for racist and xenophobic statements. In fact he continues to make statements of a similar nature – for example, that there are no gay people in Sochi and Caucasus in general, because supposedly this can not happen in the region. The mayor can also be reminded how he raided Hare Krishna followers with the help of Cossacks  (http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/212677/) or how he allowed massive violations of the immigrant workers’ rights  during construction works in Sochi (http://www.hrw.org/ru/news/2013/10/03/rossiya-sochi-zachishchayut-ot-trudovykh-migrantov). It is very likely that his earlier statements against Roma and homeless people will be forgotten as something not really important. But it would be better if he is charged for that, even in spite of the supposed “victories” during preparations for the Olympics.