by Dara Tucker
All eyes are directed towards Russia through Feb. 23 as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games unfold. Recently, the host city of Sochi has been shrouded in controversy, from terrorist threats, to concerns about the treatment of LGBT people in Russia and even unsafe conditions for athletes and fans. Sochi’s shortcomings have been widely publicized, as suggested by the emergence of the Twitter handle @SochiProblems, which posts complaints from travelers about conditions at the Olympics. But in the midst of all the criticism that has come Russia’s way, the meaning of the Olympic Games has been forgotten.
According to olympic.org, one of the goals of the International Olympic Committee, aside from promoting sports and friendly competition on an international level, is to promote the culture and legacy of the host country. This year’s opening ceremony portrayed the history of sports in Russia and was the culmination of four years of Russian culture exhibits in Sochi leading up to the Olympics, according to sochi2014.com. However, a technical difficulty prevented one of the snowflake light displays from transforming into an Olympic ring and turned the opening ceremony into an internet meme, effectively marginalizing Russian culture and taking away from the spirit of the Olympics in the process.
Likewise, the backlash over the conditions in Sochi has been taken to an unnecessarily hostile level. Jokes about the cleanliness of the drinking water, for example, are actually making light of a serious issue in Russia, where half of its citizens (including President Vladimir Putin) do not have consistent access to sanitary tap water, according topolicymic.com.
A major reason for the novelty of the Olympics is the chance to understand and learn about a new culture through the power of sports. But by overly focusing on the conditions in Russia, attention is redirected away from the athletes who have brought all of the exposure to Sochi in the first place.
It’s time to give Sochi a break and focus on what the Olympics are really about: the sports