When I first started reading journalists' tweets from Sochi, I agreed with the Russians' opinion that we were whining. Americans are spoiled if we expect Holidome luxury within a former Communist country, and everyone knows that much of the plumbing overseas is too small to accommodate both shit and Charmin. Crappy rooms are a given in any city that's booked to capacity, and I doubt that rural Russia has Target Greatlands that stock Martha Stewart accessories. As I mentioned in my recent blog about Dexter, even minimum wage Americans enjoy a standard of living that's straight from HGTV. Americans are spoiled, and I have no problem with that. I like my stuff. And I like the stores where I bought my stuff.
Yesterday, Russian officials confirmed intentional invasion of privacy throughout the Olympic village, including cameras in bathrooms & showers. With the games being proceeded by terrorism, an increase in security is something to be expected...and that, unfortunately, has a proportionately-negative affect on human rights. And I say "human rights" on purpose; Russia has no qualms with targeting, harassing, and oppressing specific groups of people. Homophobia is the most obvious example, but the country as a whole is trying to capture the machismo of its past - and that's especially noticeable with Putin's intolerance for dissidents. If the world weren't watching so closely, Sochi's critical journalists would meet the same fate as Pussy Riot.
Or even worse, the city's stray dogs..
I barely remember the Moscow Games of 1980, but I vividly recall the years that followed - Reagan at the wall, the Soviet Union's collapse, and the joy Russians felt in finding personal freedom. I started "paying attention" in the 80s, and I credit Rush Limbaugh (I found his show the year that Clinton got elected) for making me understand world events in the 90s. Now, I'm a news junkie. I read Drudge, Fox, CNN, the BBC, The Huffington Post, and Pravda; Pravda is a guilty pleasure because its stories are so sensational.
But even Pravda acknowledges the logistic challenges of staging world-class games, and some of their explanations for Sochi's unfinished projects remind me (humorously) of North Korea's struggle to build Kim's ski resort. In the end - yes, it's ultimately about the games, themselves...but the whole world is watching, and taking careful note. It's hard to hide from modern social media.
More than anything, I hope that Russia isn't taking a big step backward. The world is a dangerous place, and the last thing we need is a shirtless guy on a horse yelling "CHARGE!" The Olympics encompass the best of the best competing in unity on a worldwide stage, but the world is interconnected now...and as Snowden revealed, we can't hide anything...not even true intentions.
Feed the dogs, Mother Russia.