Monday, March 05, 2018

Flying too high

Fascinating. The Motion Picture Academy voted the Oscar for best documentary feature to the Netflix production Icarus, that rarity, something I'd actually seen. And written about. The film tells the story of how Russian doctor Grigory Rodchenkov organized and oversaw the doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics which helped his country's team win an unheard of 13 gold medals. Exposure of that state-sponsored Russian cheating caused the national team to be barred from the recently concluded Korean winter games.

It's not a great movie; in fact it struck me more as an unfinished a first draft of a potential future character study of Rodchenkov than as a completed work. I can only see the Academy's enthusiasm for it an expression of hostility, of our lurking sense in this country that mysterious Russians are messing with us.

But that itself makes for a metaphor which seems apt. Olympic athletes who don't use drugs, who follow the rules, train and compete within national and international structures which are supposed to exclude cheaters and guarantee fairness. But everyone within many sports knows the system is full of corruption, probably rigged against honest competitors.

As we watch a dishonest president melt down while under investigation for election cheating, perhaps we can identify with the athletes who can only watch while seeing cheating from the same source?

Hence an Oscar for Icarus. Let's hope the award helps ensure the safety of the whistle-blower Rodchenkov who lives in fearful exile from Putin's retribution for speaking out.

Photo via LA Times.

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