Once upon a time, back in the dark days of the Cold War, there was a trend of countries boycotting sporting events to make a political point — hence the 1980 Moscow Olympics and, to a far lesser extent, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics had fewer competitors than they would normally have seen. (Eighty-one countries took part in the Moscow Games, with over 60 countries sitting it out in protest of the Soviets’ invasion of Afghanistan, and 140 countries participated in Los Angeles.)
A Ukraine foreign ministry spokesman named Oleg Voloshyn is now trying to drum up bad memories of those terrible times (Remember the year there weren’t enough Western medalists to cuddle with Moscow Olympics mascot Misha the Bear? Oh the humanity!) in order to shame leaders from countries such as Germany into attending the Euro 2012 football tournament, which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland starting on June 8.
The reason such attempts at shame are necessary is Ukraine’s jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Remember her?
For many in the West, Tymoshenko was a passing curiosity — a beautiful woman with a weird hairdo (as George Jonas recently put it, she wore “her hair in bizarre braids that made her resemble a Stalin-era poster for collective agriculture”), who served as the face of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, then simply faded out of the news.
But contrary to the way it may have seemed here, Tymoshenko did not simply fade away.