December 01, 2013
The Olympic Torch is Going Down in Flames
Moments after Russian president Vladimir Putin began the Sochi Olympic relay -- a traditional passing of the torch that precedes the Winter Games -- he handed the beacon to a bit of a folk hero. Shavarsh Karapetyan, a world-champion swimmer, once saved 20 people trapped in a bus after it had tumbled into a reservoir. On Oct. 6, he stood powerless as the Olympic flame died in his hand. Since then, there have been 44 occasions in which the torch died. The torches were manufactured by the Krasnoyarsk Machine Building Plant - a top-secret facility that also produces Sineva ballistic missiles. Seems safe... This week, one even managed to set an athlete on fire. Pyotr Makarchuk was making his way through a crowd in the city of Abakan when flamed raced up the upper arm of his jacket. Despite the relay's seemingly cursed journey into Olympic history, the media has largely focused on a handful of highs. Nikolai Rybachenko, a local lifeguard, attached a water-resistant flare to his torch and plunged into the icy water of the world's largest freshwater lake. While submerged, Rybachenko handed the torch off to Yekaterina Andreeva, a famous news anchor, who in turn passed it on to the deputy head of the Sochi 2014 organizing committee Alexander Vronsky. The underwater mini-relay comes two weeks after the torch made a historic spacewalk from the international space station, and a month after it was taken to the North Pole, other side projects designed to showcase Russia's might. Regardless of how the Russians are trying to shift the focus, it's hard for anyone to put aside the outrage surrounding the banning of homosexual "propaganda" & extremely violent protests that have followed. The violence against Russia’s LGBT community also appears to be escalating. While attacks against individuals by so-called vigilante groups continue apace, organized attacks against gay clubs have now started to make the headlines, with gas attacks, a shooting at a Moscow club and a violent attack against an HIV group’s headquarters among recent incidents. Though it is still unclear how the law will effect the 2014 Olympics (logistically and emotionally), I can't help but feel there is a bit of irony and a lot of karma at work here. What do you think?