Sochi security: Not a game (+video)
Sochi Olympic Games: When the host country's regulations on its own people are more oppressive than the rules of the sports themselves, parents should prepare for a discussion with their kids about international politics and safety.
As the opening ceremonies for the Winter Olympics in Sochi draw near and excitement for our athletes builds, some darker undertones to these games and to the host nation’s policies provide both challenges and teachable moments.Skip to next paragraph
Lisa Suhay, who has four sons at home in Norfolk, Va., is a children’s book author and founder of the Norfolk (Va.) Initiative for Chess Excellence (NICE) , a nonprofit organization serving at-risk youth via mentoring and teaching the game of chess for critical thinking and life strategies.
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Parenting would be so much easier if the only thing we had to cope with during the Olympics was the constant giggling of our kids over the correct pronunciation of the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin (Poot-in).
Unfortunately, Mr. Putin is arguably one of the most controversial political leaders in the world today whose actions have been hurdles for parents to navigate.
I should have known back in August of 2012 that this was going to be a painfully long Olympic run for parents when we had to explain to kids why the pretty girls in a punk band named Pussy Riot were on trial for speaking against Putin’s policies.
As a journalist, who speaks passable Russian, who covered politics from Russia during the breakup of the Soviet Union, and whose great-grandfather was a dissident who fled that nation under charges of sedition, I figured I was qualified to cope with basic kid questions.
I quickly learned that no parent was ready for Pussy Riot.
It was just my luck that the first question fired at me about Russia wasn’t even from my own child.
At a chess summer camp, where I volunteer as an instructor, a 7-year-old came running into the chess room to ask me why international chess icon, Russian Grandmaster Garry Kasparov, was dragged to a Russian paddy wagon in handcuffs for trying to attend the verdict “on a bunch of cats.”
I had previously asked the kids to start looking for references to chess in the news, film, and art.
The little boy proudly brought a computer printout of a news photo to show everyone how Mr. Kasparov was manhandled into a police van by a pack of Russian officers and hauled off to the slammer.
I explained that, by American standards of civil rights, the girls in the band and Kasparov hadn’t done anything wrong. In fact, I explained, what they did was brave in the way many American heroes have been over the centuries.
However, in Russia and other countries, the rules are often different and freedoms are limited.
Everybody seemed to get it and the subject was closed.