“On #sochiproblems as I see them” by Vicki Boykis

I’m more than thrilled that attention is finally being called to how fucked up Russia is; it’s only something I’ve been talking about for years.  And it’s fine to make fun of something, but when that something is not your own, not something you understand, babies, goddamnit, you’ve got to be kind as Kurt Vonnegut would say. And kindness from journalists means adding context and not being sensationalist. Not playing the Ugly American Broadcaster.

“#SochiProblems Is More of An Embarrassment For America Than It Is For Russia” by Sarah Kaufman

Russians are not pleased by the trending #SochiProblems. Rather, they are “puzzled by why the Americans and the British are so very happy that the details are a little screwy, the way they generally are in Russia.”

So this is my plea to @SochiProblems, whining journalists and social media fiends: Have just a bit more respect for Russians, because while you might think you’re just ridiculing the Olympics, for many, this is their everyday life.

And a personal note:

I was disappointed in — but not really surprised by — the mass mockery of Russia that took place leading into the Sochi Olympics. Yes, some things are genuinely and harmlessly amusing (like the coat rack incident in the second article) and some things are seriously worth criticizing (like the human rights issues, or dangerous hotel water). But the cheap cultural jabs? The mean-spirited and purposeful misunderstandings? Gross. And worse: distracting. They took conversation and attention away from the problems that really need scrutiny. They gave people permission to laugh and move on.

Even many of the journalists came off, at least to me, as snotty Americans whining about less-than-4-star conditions. Guess what, folks? Not everyone has it as good and comfortable as we do. And you know what else? Not everyone does things the same way we do. Just because the Russian way of life is different from ours doesn’t necessarily make it bad or wrong.

Most of the snark has dissipated since the Olympics actually started, I think. We’re focusing on the events, as we should be. I just hope that after the last fireworks of the Closing Ceremony fade into the night, everyone walks away having learned something — having taken a closer look at themselves and their actions and their values. Because the medals aren’t the only things that matter. And as we’ve seen in the past, the Olympic torch has the power to cast its light across history.

7 responses to “Stuff worth reading (Sochi edition)”

  1. Browsing the Atlas Avatar

    Great post, Kristan. I’ve wondered, too, by we can’t just appreciate that their culture is so different than ours. If the athletes were in danger because of conditions there, then I understand some of the criticism. But as you mentioned, the Olympics gave us a look at everyday life there, and actually made me wish I had the opportunity to go see it for myself.

    1. Kristan Avatar

      I’d love to visit Russia as well! I’ve known people who lived there, and it’s not without its risks or troubles, but yeah, most of what was being reported (or tweeted) was not about athlete or spectator safety…

  2. becky wallace Avatar

    Beautiful post, Kristan! I performed in the Opening Ceremony of the Salt Lake Olympics and it was such a huge undertaking. I have so much respect for the organizers of any Olympics because it is a MASSIVE event. Things are going to go wrong. Sure, organizers need to be prepared, but there are no guarantees that something/someone won’t fall through, no matter how often you follow up. Accidents happens. Disasters aren’t always averted. The unforeseen sneaks up on you.

    Life is the same way.

    1. Kristan Avatar

      Did you really?! That’s awesome! Please tell me someone got you on video.

      And yes, very true about big endeavors (including life). :)

  3. Aisha Avatar

    When I saw a lot of the pictures I thought it was Russia trying to make things difficult for foreigners so that Russians could get more medals. If you can’t sleep well or take a clean, hot shower you probably won’t do optimally in your sport. If they did all of that on purpose then they deserve to be ridiculed, but I suppose there’s no way to prove that they did.

    1. Kristan Avatar

      My understanding is that the problems were mostly in hotels for visitors / journalists, and that the Olympic Village (where all the athletes of all countries stay) was pretty much fine.

      1. Aisha Avatar

        Ah I see, well then yeah they shouldn’t be so whiny :P