Sochi Problems

In the lead-up to the Sochi Olympics there have been a large amount of complaints made about a few areas of Sochi’s preparations for the Olympics [1]. Depending on which sort of news you consider the most important, there is a wide variety of bad press about terrorist threats, cost overruns, as well as Russia’s law against homosexual propaganda. Although I tend not to comment at too much length on social issues on this blog entry, I have to comment that while the American press has been pretty savage about laws against gay propaganda, but we happen to live in a county here where there is a lot of gay propaganda, so I do not feel I can be too critical about Russia for being concerned about it [2]. It is a bit embarrassing to admit that in this area, Russia, even though it is a corrupt nation in many ways, is less morally corrupt as a nation than my own. It’s not a pleasant thing to admit, but it’s the truth.

Having been at least a casual fan not only of the sporting event of the Olympics but its larger social and economic ramifications, there are generally three states that an Olympics goes through. First is the preparation. During this particular time there are some pretty standard complaints that a city will get. For one, most Olympic cities have some serious flaws. Sometimes a city is too remote or too small. Sometimes a city has to do a lot of construction in order to get the Olympic venues done. Sometimes a city has too much traffic. Sometimes a city has older venues that aren’t new and exciting. Whatever a host city does, there will be criticism for what it does or doesn’t do from a very critical international press. This includes the politics of the host nation, which often desires the Olympics for its own selfish reasons, as is entirely to be expected. As in basically every single Olympics in recent memory, the approach to the Sochi Olympics has had a lot of negativity, which says more about ourselves than it does about the place itself.

Once the games start, as is the case now, the narrative changes from negativity about the host city/country to an enjoyment of the narrative of the actual games themselves. There will be heroic underdogs to cheer on, such as Jamaica’s bobsled team or a Samoan athlete representing a decidedly nontraditional winter sports nation. There will be athletes and teams that dominate sports and provide their countries with something to cheer. The Nordic countries will probably win a lot of events that involve shooting and walking on snowshoes. Canada will probably do well in curling. Some attractive teenager will probably capture people’s hearts by doing well in women’s figure skating. Americans will probably win a lot of the Snowboarding events. None of that will be a surprise to anyone who remembers previous years, but the narrative will change to a positive one that focuses on the athletes and their stories and their triumphs. All of this is to be expected, and appreciated if one is of the mindset to do so.

It is after the Olympics are done and Sochi returns to a quiet Russian resort best known for the fact that it was Stalin’s favorite vacation spot [3] that the true worth of this particular Olympics for Russia and for the town will be seen. After the tourists and reporters are gone and the residents who were kicked out of their homes can return to their city [4], after there is no more attention paid to deathtrap elevators and double restrooms and poorly constructed and unfinished hotels [5], there will still be a town in Sochi. There will also be contractors to be paid, debts to be serviced, and athletes who hopefully have a fonder memory of the events that they participated in than the infections they got from bad water that looked like Nathan’s sweet tea, minus the raw cane sugar. Will the aftermath of the Olympics be tidy and profitable like Los Angeles in 1984, or will they leave a debt-ridden ghost town like Athens of 2004? My guess is closer to the latter than the former, but time will tell. Even if this world loves snap judgments, much about our world must be judged after the fact, once the results can be seen. The same will be the case for Sochi.


[2] See, for example, within the past week:




About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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6 Responses to Sochi Problems

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