The Sochi Backlash Backlash

The title isn’t a typo. Apparently there is a backlash against the backlash created by the sub-standard Olympic accommodations in Sochi. The gripe seems to be that the US and other western nations are spoiled, entitled, and petulant that Sochi isn’t quite up to the lofty standards of, say, Salt Lake City or even Omaha. The gold-grey water, elevator doors that open into empty shafts, and toilets that don’t flush are the same features “enjoyed” by even the upper class in Russia and so Americans and anyone else with a decent standard of living should shut up and sit down. Or shut up and compete. Whatever works.

The problem with this thinking is that in the 2014, we know that society is capable of so much more than what Sochi has provided. Since we know how to make a toilet that flushes the paper, shouldn’t we have it? I literally cannot believe that Sochi can not afford proper – and yes, it is “proper” – plumbing. I can hear people yelling now that just because America does it this way doesn’t mean everyone has to. True enough. But I believe that all human beings would choose cleanliness and plenty over the filth that Sochi provides.

The lack of readiness also reveals a kind of hubris of the Russian mindset. Did Putin really think that we wouldn’t notice the fact that Sochi basically has no infrastructure? Did he think he could muscle it into existence before the opening ceremonies? His government had four years to get it done, and look at it. There aren’t the resources or the will to make it even passable. When Katrina victims are nodding their heads and thinking, “Yep. Been there and done that”, you know you’ve failed. But none of this would matter if Sochi were not hosting the Olympics. There are thousands of places exactly like Sochi around the globe where misery is the mantra of the day and every day. But Sochi is hosting the Olympic Games – and we expect (and deserve) a world-class city to host the Olympics.

One could make the argument that we should see the misery of other places in the world, or that any city should be able to host. Just think of all that sweet lucre pouring in, after all. Okay, but the Olympics are supposed to be impartial and non-political. They’re supposed to be a competition about athletes, not another social program.

I don’t think it is too much to ask that Olympic athletes have clean water to drink or nice toilets that actually flush. By failing to provide these things, Sochi shows the world the ravages of communism, which is probably not what Putin and his government had hoped.

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