Sochi: Sport, Scandal, Society.

The best part of the Olympics, in my opinion, began today with the hockey tournament. I love it because I love America and I love hockey, and I love when America actually cares about hockey.

But how will these Olympics be remembered: sport, scandal, or societal storylines?

Most would hope for sport – what happens on the field, er, I guess ice or snow. But when you think about it, of all the Olympics played in history, how many are actually remembered for excellence of the athletes? I can only think of two off the top of my head. Michael Phelps in 2008 (not Mark Spitz in Munich 1972, see later) , and the Miracle on Ice. I’m sure in Canada, it’s 2010 games, but nobody cares, Canada. One could even argue that the Miracle on Ice wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for circumstances outside the rink –  The Cold War, and the USA boycotting the Moscow Summer Games. As the quote from the HBO documentary about the game goes, “The circumstances surrounding the games were so extraordinary, it can never happen again.” – Al Michaels.

It takes something very extraordinary to an Olympics be remembered on the field. I can only see that happening if Russia or the US win the hockey in a thrilling game. Shawn White choked. Shani Davis choked.  MAYBE one could argue the tie in women’s alpine skiing will be remembered, but how many of you just thought to yourself “There was a tie in women’s skiing?”

Will the games be remembered due to scandal? Maybe. The outrageous cost of the games. The slum-like living situation for journalists, (or what they make seem like slum-like). The technical difficulty in the opening ceremony? It takes massive scandal to be remembered. Even the judges scandal of 2002 is kind of forgotten. The games that come to mind is the terrorism in Atlanta 1996, and Munich in 1972. Both of those are earth-shattering, life-ending scandals. I can speak for everyone in that we hope that doesn’t happen the least bit. There’s already been wind of a judge scandal in figure skating again, but likely won’t be remembered after the games.

How about the games being remembered for its impact on the world society? It’s possible. Putin wanted this to be Russia’s welcome party to the world society, and it will happen to some extent. It has shed some light on issues in Russia, mainly it’s treatment of homosexuals. I don’t think that’s going to have a huge impact, however. Those issues need more much than two weeks in order to gain enough traction to affect real change, especially in Russia.

Plenty games have been remembered for societal reasons. Jesse Owens in Berlin in 1936, 1968 Black Power Salute, and China’s coming out party to the world in 2008.  There are a few things those games have that Sochi doesn’t. Firstly, they were all summer olympics, which is a much bigger games and spectacle. Secondly, the statements in ’36 and ’68  were done by the athletes, not protesters. Owens didn’t even do any explicit statement. He just kicked ass in front of Hitler. The Black Power salute was a simple gesture after they kicked ass in their sport.  In China’s case, idk I just haven’t gotten the same feeling from Sochi as a “Russian coming out to the world” party. Beijing was magical.

The only way this game will be remembered for societal reasons is if a Russian athlete wins a gold medal and instead of grabbing the Russian flag, they grab a rainbow flag.

In which case, I fear for their life.

My point is, these Olympics probably won’t be remembered in ten years. And if they are, it will probably be for something that happened outside the athletes’ control.  I had no intention on ending on this depressing point, but here I am. Does this mean we shouldn’t watch the Olympics or be excited for them? Not at all.

But I do think it’s time we stop spending over $51 Billion of taxpayer’s money on the games to impress the cameras. I think it’s time we let the sports do the talking. I think it’s time we stop  use the Olympics as a platform for political and social change. There’s so much good that comes from the games, why shift the focus to shortcomings of the world?

When the eyes of the world are watching, let them watch the athletes.

Will it happen in the future? Probably not.

That’s what I think I think.



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