Archive | 10:35 am

Why I feel sorry for Sochi.

7 Feb

Image Source: http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/19ennvwskeytrjpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

I’ll admit to laughing at some of the photos in this Buzzfeed collection of journalists’ tweets from Sochi. Mainly because I enjoy bathroom humor and – let’s be honest – who WON’T laugh when viewing “buddy toilets” side by side?

But after laughing, I felt guilty. Because at my core, I feel bad for Sochi. The Olympics have come to represent a moment of national pride for the hosting country, a chance to showcase all that’s great about their land on an international stage. And Sochi’s just plagued with challenges.

According to the coverage, hotels aren’t completed, bricks are still being hastily laid as guests arrive, the snow quality is a icier than desirable, the grass is being spray-painted green, the toilets aren’t installed properly… I mean, I know we’re all angry about the gay rights issue and Putin is a tool, but at some point this seems like a we’re just ganging up on the place.

It makes me think of birthday parties. (Stay with me.)

When I was a kid, a birthday party involved a few of my friends and a cake – maybe a slumber party. These days, birthday parties involve inviting an entire class and doing some expensive group activity – like rock climbing, an arcade outing, etc. And parents seem to struggle to one-up the last party so their kid isn’t teased for being a lame host.

It feels like that’s how the Olympics have become. Maybe I’m romanticizing it, but it seems like back in the day, it was a platform for the best athletes to represent their countries, uniting a world of viewers in the awe that comes from witnessing that kind of talent. And now, the focus has shifted and it’s on the host country to put on a party that tops the previous host. It’s about spending money and opulence and proving a nation’s wealth.

Except in my analogy, Russia is like poor kid in your class, who is being mocked for attempting to compete in a contest that’s a bit out of his depth. When I read things like the #sochiproblems tweets, it feels like a bunch of rich kids are picking on Sochi. And it makes me wonder if – like a kid bullied to the point of dawning a black trench coat – Russia is going to come out of this experience with an axe to grind.

People wonder why Americans get a bad rap internationally. Seems to me that gloating over another country’s failure doesn’t help the cause. Russia may seem backwards by our standards. It may have human rights issues that need to be addressed. But shaming a nation – and the people who were born there – isn’t likely to help those matters.

Instead of rejoicing in Sochi’s failures, why don’t we lead by example and show a little class? After all, the Olympics should provide a lesson in good sportsmanship, if nothing else.