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.

10 Responses to “Why I feel sorry for Sochi.”

  1. Scritch February 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm #

    i cant feel bad considering the gay rights issues. they should be mocked. putin’s enemy is satire.

    • pithypants February 7, 2014 at 5:19 pm #

      Don’t get me wrong – I think the gay rights stuff needs to be addressed. I just think they’d be more inclined to respond to the pressure if we focused on it exclusively rather than celebrating every embarrassment and generally jumping on a schadenfreude bandwagon.

      • Scritch February 8, 2014 at 9:41 am #

        thats true I suppose, they did it for the common wealth games in india (mocking the bad plumbing etc) as well but its kind of a joke though. smaller less rich countries Pitching for these ludicrously expensive money black hole projects and then having 2 toilets side by side or incomplete buildings and crappy jobs.

  2. dianeskitchentable February 7, 2014 at 3:20 pm #

    You nailed this analogy. Sochi and it’s people aren’t Putin. I feel bad for the people who’ve tried to get this venue ready, especially since it really isn’t the best choice for a winter Olympics. I know Simon Shnapir – the US pairs skater and although every country tried to outdo each other with putting on the biggest bash (don’t think anyone can outdo China), the big thing for the athletes is just the chance to compete after so many years of hard training. So cheer on the athletes (give an extra cheer for Simon & Marissa) and put the spotlight on them.

    • pithypants February 7, 2014 at 5:15 pm #

      Agreed! The venue should simply be a backdrop to the events. It’s a shame that all the press is chewed up on things other than the athletes, since this should be their moment to shine.

      • dianeskitchentable February 7, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

        Well let’s face it, for a long time now the press has thought the news is about themselves. Remember when we had reporters?

  3. spaarolifantje February 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

    Why don’t they just pick one country and repeat the event there, every four years? Preferably a country where gay people have rights, thank you.

    • pithypants February 7, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

      I actually kind of LOVE that idea – it seems way less wasteful than using taxpayers’ money to construct these venues and hotels that turn into ghost towns. And yeah – I’d think human rights would have to be a pre-req for being the forever-destination.

  4. thesinglecell February 8, 2014 at 6:55 pm #

    I DO feel bad for the people. And the people are who truly make a nation. But if the reports are accurate… well… they weren’t ready. I love the kid who tries despite his challenges, and maybe doesn’t outdo the rest, but still comes up a winner because of the moral victory. I’m sure that what Sochi has to offer is still better than the average where a lot of the athletes come from. I don’t care if their Opening Ceremonies didn’t stun everyone. I do care if there are basic fundamental problems with functionality. Because it makes the people look bad, even when it’s not their fault, and a nation should try really hard not to make its people look bad.

    PS – Now I feel kind of bad about what I posted today, having not yet read your thing. Wait, no I don’t. Alright, a little bit. On an individual level.But institutionally I think it’s solid.

  5. Lorna's Voice February 11, 2014 at 1:25 pm #

    Well done! 🙂 And I hate that the Olympics has been reduced in the American media to one big medal count… 😦

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