So the Sochi Winter Olympic Games are now history. And what was the takeaway?

Could it be that sports – especially the Olympics – helps cerate a more harmonious relationship among people?

Not in Russia. Remember the anti-gay laws.

Not in the U.S. Remember the social media attacks against Coca-Cola because of its Super Bowl television commercial allowing people to sing Coke’s version of America the Beautiful in other languages.

The Sochi Olympics was just the latest example of the IOC awarding its games to an oppressive country. In addition to Russia, the IOC shamefully has had its games played in other repressive countries, including Yugoslavia, China and Hitler’s Germany, known as the Nazi Olympics. It should come as no surprise that the IOC is drawn to autocratic governments.  Why? It’s because the IOC is an autocratic governing body.

The IOC has plenty of allies that help perpetuates its “Olympics at any cost” agenda, the American corporations whose multi-million dollar sponsorships the Olympics needs to survive as it is.

Not surprisingly, the corporate sponsors mostly kept quiet during the Putin Games. But two members of the Pussy Riot Russian punk band showed more courage than America’s powerful corporate leaders.  Released from prison as a pre-Olympic public relations ploy by Putin, after almost two years in jail for joking about the Russian all but-in-name dictator, a band member said on the Colbert Report,  "We have different ideas about a bright future [for Russia] and we don't want a shirtless man on a horse leading us."  

But the Putin attempt at PR didn’t last long. A Feb. 10 Wall Street Journal story said that two former members of Pussy Riot were detained by police to prevent them from demonstrating in Sochi against the government. The article also said that an Italian gay rights activist was detained for unveiling a “gay is ok” banner in the Olympic Park.  An IOC official approved of the police action saying, “sports venues are not for us the place for demonstrations.” 

Then, on Feb.19, Cossacks and civilian-dressed men pepper sprayed and horse whipped Pussy Riot members as the punk rockers began protesting Kremlin rule, in Sochi, but not at an Olympic venue.

The IOC is famous for its politically correct speeches. But its folly of awarding its games to repressive governments was again demonstrated by the Russian government during the opening ceremonies, first, when during an impressive pyrotechnic display, a technical glitch prevented a snowflake from becoming an Olympic ring. 

But Russians saw only perfection because rehearsal footage was quickly inserted so its citizens couldn’t see the mishap. Then the world was presented with a marvelous, but flawed, tutorial history lesson of Russia, from the tsars to the present. Unfortunately it was subject to the heavy hand of Putin censorship.

Among the missing lessons were Stalin’s pre-World War 2 purges and his alliance with Nazi Germany. A USA TODAY article on Feb. 10 said that the producer was prohibited from including World War 2 references in the show. The impressive, but historically expunged, opening ceremony will also be remembered for Putin choosing figure skater Irina Rodnina, a member of the Russian government and a Putin supporter, to co-light the Olympic Cauldron, considered a high honor for Olympians, despite her tweeting a racist photo of President Obama and Michelle. 

While the IOC’s history of hypocrisy should not be a laughing matter, one aspect is:  the “lending” of athletes to countries so they can participate in the Olympics, even though the athletes are not citizens of that nation, and in some cases never even visited the country, and athletes changing their citizenships so that they can compete for countries that offer them more support.

U.S. corporate sponsors justify their Olympics sponsorships, regardless of the country hosting the games, by saying “we’re supporting sports” or “we’re supporting our athletes.”  That might be so.  But by failing to tell the IOC to clean up its act and stop giving the games to repressive governments that use the Olympics as a propaganda tool, the American bankrollers are also aiding and abetting crimes against freedom-wanting people.

Putin said that the West was engaging in a Cold War-like campaign to undermine the Russian Olympics by complaining about the weather and other conditions in Sochi.   That’s ludicrous, because Russia, as have other authoritarian countries, has always used sports as a propaganda tool.

The IOC’s unyielding positions to changing events was demonstrated again during the Sochi games, when the boys from Switzerland refused a request by the Ukrainian delegation to wear black armbands in memory of those killed during the anti-government protests in a country not too far from where the games were played.

I have always believed that the Olympic Games are the most important sports event ever created.  No other athletic endeavor brings together so many athletes from so many countries with so many different cultures.

But there are things more important than any sporting event. Olympic medals become tarnished when the IOC awards its games to repressive governments whose purpose is to use the games as a propaganda tool.   When that happens sports are not merely games. They are a political tool. And that’s not sportsmanlike.

If anyone deserves a gold medal its NBC’s Bob Costas for putting the Olympics in perspective by commenting on the political issues surrounding the games.

There are two important takeaways from the Sochi Games – one positive and one troubling:  On the plus side, despite the business as usual attitude of the IOC and its corporate sponsors, a Turnkey Sports Poll in the Feb. 3 issue of the SportsBusiness Journal revealed that 69% of respondents said that the IOC has a responsibility to take a hard-line stance against host countries that violate human rights. 

But a New York Times Feb. 13 story said that a poll revealed that Putin’s popularity in Russia has increased because of the Olympics.  That’s a negative for people and countries that believe freedom is more important than a sporting event.

And now the games are over. The athletes will be chasing another type of gold. Putin and the IOC will congratulate themselves about staging a successful Olympics. The human rights abuses in the country that the IOC gave the games to continues. But the IOC’s corporate sponsors remain mute.

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Arthur Solomon was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr@juno.com