Citius, Altius, Fortius

The Winter Olympics are about to start in Russia, and as with all modern sporting spectacles, we hear a lot about the cost going over-budget. But President Putin doesn’t seem to mind, so who are we to worry. It is a Russian problem and one that will surely be eased if the Russians succeed in being faster, higher and stronger. 

Denmark is not the most competitive of nations. For many years we had a skater Kurt Stille who tended to cross the finishing line just before everybody had gone home. His surname means quiet, but the English word is probably a more apt description of his efforts.

But over the last two decades, our medal chances have improved, and once again this year, we carry strong hopes in the curling, a sport that was practically unknown until our ladies took silver in Japan in 1998 – the first ever Danish medal at the Winter Olympics.

Of course, when we are participating, we tell each other that it is more important to take part than to win. We are therefore taking part with the humblest of delegations (although we secretly believe we can win – we have seen it before!).

We also remember that the Olympics are no longer all about clean hearts and minds. They are also political. We have no expectations that Russia will overnight pop up as forerunners on the questions of human rights, homosexual marriage acceptance, and respect and flexibility in dealing with minority groups (and mind you, Russia has a lot).

But by taking responsibility for organising the games, and the Football World Cup in 2018, Russia has left itself open to face these pertinent questions. We are strong believers that public debate can be the most powerful mover of attitudes and the establishment of political pluralism.

More importantly, the preparation of the games have already over many months opened up a debate on Russian issues that would otherwise not have been raised. When water drips onto a stone, it will eventually make a hole. In modern times, drips have been replaced by dialogue in social and traditional media, so the process speeds up. That is good new for the victims of human right abuses and the homosexuals and minorities harassed, marginalised and suppressed.

Happy Olympics – may the best athletes win, but let it be learned that citius, altius, fortius is not the only area in which the Olympic family is striving for human excellence.