A complete guide to Sochi Olympics mishaps
It’s a balmy 50 degrees and grey in Sochi, Russia today for the Opening Ceremony. The Winter Olympics are finally here. And while every Olympics are historic, the 2014 games will be remembered for the cultural context surrounding them more so than any feat of sport on the part of the athletes.
More so than any global event since Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign the 2014 Sochi Olympics have been fraught with mishaps and general terribleness for which schadenfreude is the only relief. So now that the games are here, let’s take a look back at the comedy of errors that has been the lead-up to the 2014 Olympics:
The Torch Relay
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Torch Relay by the numbers:
* $6.4 million: The amount paid to produce the whopping 16,000 Olympic torches by a Russian submarine firm in Siberia. The amount vastly exceeded the torch cost of previous Olympics and raised speculation of payola. The Russian games also offered to sell each torch to the torch-bearers at a cost of $388 each, another potential $6.2 million in earnings.
* 40,000: The number of miles on the record-breaking torch route, including trips to space and the deep sea, for some reason. This turned out to be way, way too many.
* 48: The number of times the torch has gone out along the way
* 3: The number of torch-bearers who lit themselves on fire
* 1: The number of torch-bearers who died along the way. A 74-year-old Greco-Roman wrestling coach carried the torch 500 feet, promptly had a heart attack, and died.
Last summer the politics surrounding the Olympics began to overshadow the games themselves when Russia passed a legal ban on discussing homosexuality with minors in a bill that not-so-subtly conflated gays with pedophiles. When a Russian official suggested the state would arrest any gay Olympic athletes or tourists to Sochi, many began calling for an all-out boycott.
The U.S. didn’t boycott the games, but effectively enacted a Presidential boycott, declining to send anyone from the Obama Administration and intentionally filling its Olympic Delegation with gay athletes—including the newly out Brian Boitano—as a kind of fuck-you.
Oh, and then there’s the very real threat of a terror attack. Separatist groups furious at President Putin from Chechnya and the surrounding areas, who claimed responsibility for a recent suicide attack in Volgograd, have pledged to attack the games. A key suspect was shot and killed by Russian police recently and another detained, but as many as four “black widows”—wives of slain militants plotting revenge attacks—were still at large on opening day.
Aside from the gay persecution and terror threats, Russia frequently violates human rights of all varieties, which was underscored when Sochi banned activist Semyon Simonov from buying tickets to watch as a spectator. Simonov had filed a complaint over the systematic human rights abuses of migrant workers in the construction of the Olympic facilities, and this was Russia’s retribution. The games also banned Nikolai Levshits from buying tickets, and activist for prisoners’ human rights.
The City Itself
Aside from the questionable wisdom of having the Winter Games in a subtropical city where it almost never gets below 45 degrees, Sochi itself was vastly unprepared for an event of this magnitude. Russian officials patted themselves on the back for getting the infrastructure together saying that until recently most of the site was “an open field.” But what they filled it with seems to leave plenty to be desired. The hashtag #SochiProblems became a Twitter sensation with photos like these:
— Jo-Ann Barnas (@JoAnnBarnas) February 1, 2014
— Simon Rosner (@SimonRosner) February 6, 2014
Sochi officials also announced a policy that they would be clearing the city of stray dogs by simply killing them. So there’s that.
Again, Sochi officials seemed proud of the hotels they put together for the Olympics, but the digs didn’t seem up to code with what most of the developed world expects in terms of accommodations. Half-built, shoddy construction seemed to be the better end of the spectrum, with full-blown entropy at the worst.
Spa and fitness center at Gorki Grand hotel…you get in shape by putting it together? pic.twitter.com/jqqOCP9Wt5
— Chris Dufresne (@DufresneLATimes) February 5, 2014
Ale zasuwaj? z budow? nie?le.. pic.twitter.com/lSplwBSCZf
— Kamil Wolnicki (@KamilWolnicki) February 5, 2014
There have also been complaints about the hotel water, like this one from Chicago Tribune’s Stacy St. Clair:
My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.” #Sochi2014
— Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 4, 2014
Adding insult to injury, deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak said he knows the hotels aren’t that bad—because they have surveillance cameras in the hotel rooms.
And here we are at the Opening Ceremony. We’ve already established that there’s no actual winter in Sochi, except at the top of a mountain half an hour away. So there’s that. But in addition the Opening Ceremony will boast a performance from Russia’s only pop sensation, t.a.t.u., whose 15 minutes of fame in 2003 was entirely based on pretending to be lesbians. Which obviously doesn’t jive with Russia’s anti-gay laws, but they had to take what they could get since there are literally no other Russian musicians that matter to the world.
As a poetic punctuation to the seemingly endless string of mishaps leading up to the games, the Olympic Rings failed to materialize properly in the Opening Ceremony:
And finally, there’s Bob Costas, who after 24 hours of Sochi hotel living, already has pink eye, and has to report wearing glasses, with puss oozing out of his eye:
So there you have it, folks! Enjoy the next two weeks of gay persecution, human rights abuses and potentially terror attacks. We’ll be sure to update as the mishaps unfold, and they surely will.