How did it happen? Why are the Winter Olympics, which begin with opening ceremonies this Friday, in a Hell hole like Sochi?
Granted, on the surface and from an aerial view, Sochi looks pretty nice. It sits on the Black Sea and is a popular beach resort for Russian billionaires. To put it in American terms, this is the equivalent of the United States hosting the Winter Olympics in Palm Beach, Florida. (To be fair, unlike Palm Beach, Sochi does have mountains—just not mountains with snow on them—they’ll be carting that in and manufacturing it for the Games).
There’s also the little matter of terrorism. While Sochi is ordinarily a playground for rich Russians, it also sits in an area surrounded by groups that hate and want to destroy Russia. Pre-Olympics, these groups are promising all kinds of mayhem at the Games including possible attacks by a group of women known as the Black Widows because they make a practice of avenging their husbands’ deaths at the hands of the Russians by murdering innocent people with suicide bombs. Nothing like hosting the Olympics in a place that’s a grenade throw away from a group of eager would be terrorists. Recently, Bob Costas noted the irony and suggested that the Olympic Committee might want to consider putting future Games in Yemen.
With new safety threats emerging every day, we’ve almost forgotten that the original controversy over these Games was Russia’s anti-gay laws. In response, President Obama is sending a delegation to Sochi for the Opening Ceremonies featuring many openly gay American athletes. So on top of the geopolitical issue of terrorism to contend with, these Olympics also feature social political issues as well. And this isn’t even subtle social issues. This is in your face social commentary with the mayor of Sochi claiming that there are no gays in Sochi. Well, he should know. They’ve probably all been beaten and dragged outside the city limits to be eaten by wild dogs.
Oh wait! The wild dogs are being poisoned in Sochi (you think I’m kidding), so they aren’t much of a threat right now, although I wouldn’t be shocked to learn later that they turn into puppy pate for foreign visitors.
Just because the wild animals are pretty much out of the picture doesn’t make it safe for the gay visitors to Sochi which is all quite ironic to me. Aren’t the Olympics supposed to be the ultimate hospitality event? So why be such haters? It seems to me that if you’re going to harbor a lot of hostility towards one group (and let’s face it—in Russia there are probably many more groups they despise–they just aren’t talking about them), you should get out of the hospitality business altogether.
Speaking of the hospitality business, this is where Sochi is getting a big fat “F.” For one thing, you can’t drink the water. It isn’t potable. When one journalist finally got running water in her hotel room, it was brown! She went to the Front Desk to register a complaint, and the woman there warned her not only not to drink the water, but also not to splash it on her face since it’s “dangerous.” Another journalist arrived only to be told that his room was “still under construction.” And whatever visitors do, they’d better not try flushing toilet paper down the commode. No, in Sochi, they provide a lovely metal bin right next to the toilet to dispense with that sort of waste. Hopefully, they provide room freshener and a few candles to burn as well.
You’d think the athletes would at least fare a little better. Unfortunately, the answer is a resounding “no!” They are crowded together in uncomfortable sleeping spaces. If nothing else, these Olympics will be remembered for providing some of the greatest endurance tests in Olympic history. Let’s see who can ski jump the farthest with no sleep! How about watching the figure skaters spin and jump after drinking toxic water for a couple of weeks? Hope there’s a good clean-up crew on hand for that event! Then there’s the challenge of the four man bobsledding teams. When they all run together and jump into the bobsled in unison, it may not be just to start the race. They may actually be running to take cover from incoming.
So where did the $51 billion dollars go to put on this disaster? My guess is it all went to members of the Olympic Selection Committee who each will be sure to spend the next three weeks in their new villas and on their new yachts but as far away from Sochi as they can get.
Let’s hope we get through what looks to be the worst Olympics in recent memory without incident. The potential for all kinds of catastrophe there is sobering. While Sochi sucks, let’s all band together to cheer our hard working American athletes and hope they kick ass—especially some Russian ass—GO USA!!!