This is one of those stories that causes me to confirm that today is, in fact, not the first day of April.
The 2014 Winter Olympics, held in the Russian tropical resort of Sochi, have led to the likely temporary but still odious resumption of an internal passport system for those desiring to enter the Sochi region.
The Russian Olympic Committee has quietly prohibited several Russian political activists from attending sporting events by denying them documents known as Olympic passports, or fan passes, which spectators need in addition to tickets to gain access to sporting venues.It's difficult to know where to begin here. The article indicates that the passports are being denied to many potential "troublemakers" - not just people from the various breakaway republics but also mainstream opposition party members.
The passports were required as part of the security precautions for the Games, which will be held in the vicinity of a long-running insurgency. All spectators must register online and then pick up the pass at an airport or a distribution center; a ticket alone will not allow admittance to a sporting event.
The other [security precautions] include chips allowing the authorities to electronically track attendees, and are part of an electronic security effort here so elaborate that the State Department has recommended that fans take the batteries out of their cellphones, which could become locating beacons or bugging devices in the hands of the authorities.
The IOC has been widely regarded as corrupt (hello, SLC) and accommodating in the face of oppressive regimes (hi there, Moscow, and why hello, Berlin, and yes, hello, Beijing!). But as a European-dominated entity, doesn't anyone over there have any shame about the kinds of conditions that exist on the ground?
Wait, am I asking if the IOC has any shame? Nevermind, I know the answer to that one ;p.
I do give a lot of credit to the NY Times - their coverage of the colossal error in judgment that is the IOC's accommodation of Putin's autocratic, homophobic, and generally oppressive Russia has been excellent. It's a real shame, I used to enjoy the Winter games, and I feel great sympathy for the athletes who must decide between perhaps their only shot at gold, given how short careers are in many sports, or staying away from Sochi.
[Note: This was written after I woke up in the middle of the night unable to sleep due to a tremendous wind storm - I'll reply to comments until I go back to sleep or the house falls over, whichever comes first ;p.]