On my way to Russia, to carry the Olympic torch...

On my way to Russia, to carry the Olympic torch...

Miss Russia 2013 melted Siberian hearts as she carried the Olympic flame through a snowy settlement as part of the Sochi 2014 torch relay, read an article in Rianovosti dated Dec. 8.

I don’t happen to be Miss Turkey. Yet I will have the honor of carrying the Olympic flame and become one of the 14,000 torchbearers, a record number for the Winter Olympics. Of course it remains to be seen whether I will succeed in melting the hearts of the locals in Nizhny Novgorod, where I will carry the torch on Wednesday.

Together with Yonca Tokbaş, a columnist for Hürriyet, who is known for her efforts for charity runs; we were chosen by Visa Turkey to be the torchbearers from Turkey.

The reasons why we were chosen probably rely on our amateur sportive backgrounds.

I happen to be a member of the Turkey branch of the Ski Club of International Journalists (SCIJ) which came into being in order to establish bridges of dialogue between the journalists of the then capitalist West and Communist East. Skiing was a good excuse to get people together. With 2000 members in 46 countries, every year some 250 of us get together in some snowy place to ski together, to compete in Grand Slalom and Cross Country and to discuss anything that is to our interest, whether latest developments in the Middle East or latest innovations in our profession.

Yet in addition to this connection to winter sports; I’d like to think that I qualified also because of my publications on the Olympic Games. I conducted interviews for the London 2012 Summer Olympics as well as Turkey’s bid for the 2020 Olympics that has not brought the desired outcome as Japan was chosen last September to host it. These interviews made me more familiar with the Olympic spirit.
The Olympic Games are the world’s largest pageant of athletic skill and competitive spirit. They are also displays of nationalism and politics. Unfortunately they have also become too commercialized and commoditized especially during the last two decades.

Yet, I still believe in the Olympic spirit which is expressed in the Olympic Creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Let me further elaborate what I understand from Olympic spirit.

My country and my profession are passing through some turbulent times. This is not happening to us for the first time.

For some foreign observers this might come as a surprise for Turkey was a success story only a few years ago. What went wrong? Unfortunately Turkey’s success story did not build upon certain values that are endorsed by the Olympic spirit. We have been invaded by the culture of winning. Short term successes brought a sense of invincibility and hubris to Turkey’s “new” ruling elites.

Turkey lost the Olympic bid, for instance, precisely because we did not grasp the Olympic spirit. We thought pouring in cash and doing grandiose construction will suffice. On top of it our athletes thought they could get away with doping.

The government’s authoritarian tendencies have taken Turkey further away from the democratic values. This has also taken its toll in journalism and among journalists as well.

Yet it is actually in challenging times that we need to recall and uphold some of the Olympic spirit’s main principles like: patience, persistency and solidarity to uphold universal principles and continue to struggle for them to prevail; without falling into despair.

As a daily Turkish saying goes, “We have not gone down; we are still standing.”

One would also hope that the winds of the Olympic spirit blow stronger for Russians as well, and the recent steps taken by Moscow, like releasing jailed members of Greenpeace, music band Pussy Riot and former political figures are not done for cosmetic purposes ahead of the games.