Old lighthouse building Sopot, july 2005, Poland (photo: M.Minderhoud)
This is the Sopot Diary column I wrote last night, on my flight to Gdansk, Poland…
Sopot diary: flying to Gdansk
It is ten in the evening local time, as we zoom across Germany and Poland at 38,000 feet.
I am quite excited with our upcoming adventure. The geopolitical issues of the day are not far away. As Vladimir Putin rattles his sabers and Barak Obama threatens retaliation , the governments of Poland, Germany and Hungary are concerned about the game of political chicken that is going on.
The tensions are higher by the day, fueled by the constant media attention, as CNN replays the pretend Russian troops in the Crimea.
Understanding, appreciating or interpreting European or Slavic history has not been a
strong suit of recent American administrations, and this administration seems to be no exception to that rule.
Vladimir Putin seems to interpret Western caution about inviting him to the big table as the slight it is. Putin is a proud man who believes in regaining Russian global respect. A man who has been openly quoted by Russian and Western media as having a nostalgia at the least for old Soviet days , Vladimir Putin should not have surprised Western intelligence with any of his moves or responses.
Someone has not read Russian history well and Putin sees that as a slight. Right now, keeping this situation from the boiling point relies on German PM Merkel, who seems to have the ear of Putin. Barak Obama is in a difficult situation: he leads a country that is sick of war , leading the world and the renewed madness of leaders who see military action as an answer to anything. And dont’ think that the partisan sniping that goes on no matter what President Obama does is not part of the equation.
Into this madness, we fly to a bastion of global cooperation: the World Indoor Championships, where, for three days and nights, against a backdrop of global crisis, athletes from 100 plus countries will compete. Over six hundred athletes will run , jump and throw in Sopot , Poland’s Ergo stadium for three wonderful days and nights.
For me, covering such events is like going to Disneyland-it is invigorating to see how well people can get along.
Those who see parallels to August 1914, are not far off, or just read The Guns of August by the late Barbara Tuchman, a well written book on the beginnings of World War One. Ironic that it is the one hundredth year anniversary of the start of World War one this August.
I know that I will be cheering for Ukranian, Russian, American, Mexican, and all other athletes who run, jump and throw this weekend. Perhaps a three day indoor track championships will remind us that we have much more in common than we have that differentiates us.
That is my hope for the next weekend.