I know I covered this a bit here , but I decided that the Olympics deserves its own piece.
When it comes to the Olympics in general, they are not (and never have been) all that interesting to me. I am not a sports fan in general, so the games just do not matter to me. Truth be told, I view the whole thing as a gigantic expensive distraction. But I am less rigid in this personal view in recent years, accepting that others enjoy it, just as they do other organized league sports. Which is fine in moderation.
Many view the Olympics as a time of unity for the world, which may also be true. Just so long as nationalism does not become a rampant and annoying. Canadians are notorious for such things (“Hockey is OUR thing! Were number 1!”).
But like all things that dominate the news media for any length of time, there is always stories pushed out of the way, and aside, to make more room for coverage. Then there is the fixation of the citizens. That they may become so fixated on the Olympics (or any other sporting or other spectacle), that nothing else gets though.
I certainly felt this way during the 2010 Games.
For those that have forgotten the significance of that year, it was when BP had their epic clusterfuck in the gulf. For the record, it is not over, it will not be for a REALLY long time. The wellhead we can only assume (hope?) is capped, but the dispersed oil is out there, hiding below the surface. Lives are just as ruined today, as they were the day after the spill (no matter how much money BP spent on green washing the whole situation with TV spots and Internet ads).
Something to consider the next time you hear about a powerful hurricane baring down on anywhere on the gulf coast. Will New Orleans/Biloxi/ect be not just swamped, but be left with a stew of crude and corexit once the water is gone?
Its a question that I have had since 2010, and I sense one that will only be answered, if/when the situation arises.
We KNOW there will be big hurricanes, lets get that straight. Its whether they will come with a toxic punch, that is the question.
And a follow up question. Will communities that have still not recovered from Katrina, be able to recover from such a situation?
We shall see.
Now, 4 years down the road, we come to Sochi 2014, and once again, the games are are casting a huge shadow over almost everything else. Though this is an interesting situation, because the shadow is not as much on one single event, as it is on how the whole show itself, is a gigantic facade.
Sure, there have been a number of stories that got buried, or pushed aside. At least 3 huge chemical spills, one affecting the drinking water of hundreds of thousands of people. Syria is still at it, as is the Ukraine. To the credit of the media, the Ukraine did get eventual coverage, but it took a huge fire in freedom square to warrant that attention.
But the elephant in the room, the thing that bothers me the most about Sochi, is the not the location (Russia). Sure, throwing the games in what equates to a sub tropical climate, was a head scratcher for me. It gives the visitors a nice “retreat” if you will, from the “Winter” in the Winter Olympics.
I would have thought a better location would be somewhere, near a fairly large city. For example, Moscow or St. Petersburg (keep in mind I am not familiar with the topography of either region. So forgive me if neither makes any sense).
I suggest such an area, because there is already much infrastructure in place to handle the incoming international traffic. And if adjustments have to be made, then they should (I would think) not have to be nearly as expensive, or ecologically degrading.
Sure, its cold in those cities. But its the WINTER Olympics.
But that was not to be.
Putin, for whatever reason, choose a location that was not only ecologically untouched (for the most part anyhow), but COMPLETELY without the necessary infrastructure. Literally everything from the roads, to the venues, to the power and water treatment plants, had to be built around the games.
Which brings out another aspect of the picture, the rampant corruption. The enormous task presented a huge opportunity for a payday for big business. And, going hand in hand with this, the Russian government used the opportunity to streamline the land expropriation process.
So now, contractors had pretty much free rein to charge and do pretty much whatever they pleased. And people who lost their homes to Olympic infrastructure upgrades, were poorly compensated (if at all). Thrown out on the street, in the name of Sochi 2014.
And in keeping with the rampant corruption of the Russian government, the exact totals of money spent on the Olympics is hard to gauge. But the number that is out, is around 50 billion. In contrast to 2 billion spent in building for the 3 previous Olympic games.
And then there is the environmental aspect. The other area that the government is keeping a tight lid on. For a reason.
At least one river was polluted on account to Olympic preparation. A large part of an international wildlife protected area was destroyed, to make room for the Olympic venues. Not to mention all the secondary pollution that we do not even know about (is the sewage being treated? I somehow doubt it).
Then there is the fact that while the Russian government is so keen to keep a lid on its information flow outward, its very much interested in what the visitors have to say. Laptops and cellphones hacked, cameras in the hotel rooms. So much so that people are told not to have ANY expectation of privacy.
Its hilariously ironic that this is the nation that is harboring Edward Snowden. The Kremlin puts the NSA’s privacy “breaches” to shame.
And all of this, is either overlooked, or unknown, to the international community. That is why I do not just NOT pay attention to this years Olympics. I do my best to inform people about the “other” side.
Something that I wonder, is if all the ecological degradation on the part of the games, was for nothing.
When the games are over, the population of the area will remain the same. leaving Sochi (and in particular, the surrounding areas) with a glut of unused infrastructure.
Will the government take steps to make use of this infrastructure? Or will it just be left to rot?
We will see.