Cultural Diplomacy at Sochi

The Olympics have been used as a platform to promote political ideologies almost from its inception. Recently, sports diplomacy has grown and emerged in international affairs: with the Olympics being at the forefront of this field. Personally, I believe the Olympics are the quintessential example of public diplomacy. Countries coming together, brushing aside their differences, to bond over their love for the game and the quest for the gold. And although this competition brings about cultural understanding and appreciation, along with a budding feeling of “global unity,” issues of international politics can’t help but be brought into the arena.

International broadcasting networks, a large aspect of public diplomacy, play a major role in shedding light on the inspiring cultural sharing and exchange occurring at any Olympic event. However, mass media also brings to the surface hard issues such as human rights and political liberties. More specifically, the current 2014 Winter Olympics occurring in Sochi, Russia have launched a worldwide discussion of LGBT rights. Many have fervently critiqued Russia’s strict anti-LGBT rights; pushing for inclusivity and equality from a human rights perspective. Additionally, the idea of good governance and the importance of separation of powers in a political system have been discussed through various media outlets as a veiled criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his authoritative power concentrated in the Kremlin. Both indirect and direct efforts of public diplomacy at the Olympics allow for issues such as LGBT rights to be passionately supported and upheld on an international platform. Ideally, a global event that has become a respected staple of our world can bring about the cultural acceptance necessary in combatting issues such as anti-LGBT legislation. Only time will tell if the atmosphere and practice of public diplomacy at the Olympics will actually lead to substantial political and social change and reform.

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