Inescapable Politics

Sochi-Winter-Olympics-2014-Begins

One of my students on the BA(Hons) Creative Events Management said recently that she really didn’t understand why politics is discussed within the course content and she thought it was a waste of time. Her perspective, thankfully, is not the norm but it made me think about why it really is crucial to making great events work.

If we consider the Sochi Winter Olympics in isolation from the political uprising in the Ukraine, the importance of this mega event as a symbol of modern Russia and its place with the global powers is superficial.  However, given the challenge to Russia’s dominance that the Ukraine uprisings represent, there was a huge amount of pressure on the vast team organising the Sochi Olympics to ensure that it provided a positive counterbalance within the political environment.

If we then consider the influence that the various politicians at local, regional, national and global levels within Russia can exert over the development and operations of the Games, there are yet more compliance challenges and political requirements of the practical aspects. Who needs to sit next to each other? What restrictions are placed on visas and access? Which suppliers are selected? All influenced by the politics of the host nation.

To have the Games taking place at the same time as political unrest in a neighbouring country (which was previously under the Russian regime) has meant that the investment in the Winter Olympics had to generate an even more significant return in a more risky context. There could have been major security issues, political questioning, withdrawal of competing nations, reduced attendance, and withdrawal of funders as a consequence of the Ukrainian uprisings. This is why we have to consider politics in our event design and implementation.

I also learnt today that Britain is obliged by the Budapest Treaty to protect the borders of Ukraine. I wonder if this had been invoked two weeks ago whether we would have been able to compete…..

Claire Eason Bassett, Managing Director, Mackerel Sky Events

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