Moscow, the eternal rank outsider
Congratulations to London and to the team led by Lord Sebastian Coe, the two-times middle distance Olympic Champion of the 1980s, for their victory over Paris in the final round of the competition to choose the Olympic and Paralympic city for 2012.
Interesting it was that Moscow was dropped in the first round of voting, classified by western press outlets as "the rank outsider". Interesting too that SKY NEWS held an opinion poll on July 5th, one day before the vote, asking "Which of the following four cities will be chosen to host the Olympic Games - London, Madrid, New York or Paris?"
Moscow was ignored totally as if it was never a candidate. But SKY NEWS knows better, because SKY NEWS is systematically voted News Channel of the Year for its coverage of events, complete with live interviews with US troops heading into Iraq with the infamous question Skystrated by Jeremy Thompson "So, are you looking for revenge for September 11th?", as if Iraq or Saddam Hussein had anything to do with international terrorism. But Sky News knows that of course.
So Moscow, the rank outsider, fell at the first post in an even race? After all, London had already hosted the Games twice, in 1908 and 1948, Paris twice (1900 and 1924), Spain once, in Barcelona (1992) and the USA four times (St Louis in 1904, Los Angeles twice in 1932 and 1984 and Atlanta once, in 1996). Moscow had a half-games in 1980, boycotted by a great number of leading athletes because the Soviet Armed Forces were fighting Islamist terrorism in Afghanistan. The Moscow Olympics of 1980 can hardly count so the choice of city was not based upon fairness. One can only, therefore, congratulate London for having satisfied the majority of the judges that this will be the best venue.
Moscow, the rank outsider, capital of the country where not so long ago babies were eaten, according to popular legend in western circles, where the food was inedible, where the people were surly and rude, where everything was a "Soviet-style nightmare", as we heard recently on (where else?) Sky News, talking about Kiev, the results of decades of lies and twisted truths during 40 years of Cold War.
As London celebrates, and rightly, because nobody lacks confidence in the fact that the capital of the UK can put on a splendid Olympic and Paralympic Games, that London is ready and prepared to stage this major sports event for the third time, Moscow can rightly feel that once again it has been misunderstood and overlooked.
Gone is the chance for Moscow to prove that it is not a grey city, but full of life, that Russian people are happy and fun-loving and not impolite and rude, that Russian parents love their children as much as anyone else, that Russian cuisine is perhaps the most varied of any, that Moscow is a fun, kinetic city with an ecstatic night-life and whose cultural venues are second to none.
Congratulations to London on its third full Olympic Games. May the Olympic spirit be present throughout the games, may the Olympic flame represent the gift of life and love which united the international community in London and may the world remember that after the Olympics come the Paralympics, a bastion against exclusion.