Sochi: A Designed Paradise or a covetous illusion?

By Maxime Devillaz

Staff Writer

”After seven years of building to this moment – the opening of what is believed to be the most expensive Olympic Games in history – the message of the over-the-top ceremony was simply this: In a big way, Russia is back.”

David M. Herszenhorn, NY Times (7 Feb. 2014)   Uten navn

Spectacular art constructed to provide perfect conditions for the athletes, or simply a political attempt to reinforce Russia’s outward facade as a superpower? Either way, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia was unique down to the core. By putting effort into building new, expensive winter facilities in the European seaport city, where palm trees rise and winter temperatures rarely drop below 53 degrees, the sign of a classic Winter Olympics seemed unlikely. However, the Olympic complex in itself – stretching its wings from the Black Sea coast up into the Caucasus Mountains – redeemed sheer pageantry and national pride, which is considered a typical trademark of such ceremonies in modern times.

Beneath the surface, journalists worldwide illustrated the undone work with pictures of non-working elevators, broken toilets, and falling objects in their rooms. There was not enough space to fit all of the athletes. Was Sochi not prepared?

The real fire of criticism was already lit before the event, due to Russia’s political regulations  banning homosexual ”propaganda,” and Russia’s threatening to use military enforcement in its dispute with the Ukraine. For these reasons, some Western leaders decided to boycott the games. But what about those 3,500 athletes from 83 different countries, who did participate in the fight for medals?

Despite the fact that all controversy leading up to Sochi threatened to overshadow the Games themselves, the host  claimed the first-spot against the United States in the expected battle between two of the world’s leading nations. Interestingly, the runner-up for third place was Norway, which pleased senior Business major Eivind Austboe, a stalwart Olympics supporter of his homeland. ”The fact that most, if not all, of the medals are in rinkydink sports that almost no one cares about, doesn’t matter to us,” Austboe said. He continued, ”Winter Olympics is extremely popular in Norway, and it is cool that we can be up there with the big-dogs in the medal rankings.”Skjermbilde 2014-03-30 kl. 22.57.14

Remarkably, when turning the list upside-down, one can be surprisingly overwhelmed. For instance, Iceland did not manage to win anything in Sochi.  While putting logic to the literary meaning, however, the seemingly baffling facts are not so unexpected. The tiny nation only sent five athletes to Sochi and none placed better than 34th overall. International Business major from the
”icy” country, Johann Kristjansson, describes his ignorance of the games as coming from his expectations on his fellow countrymen.”I did not expect them to win, but I would probably have been more interested in watching the games if we had a chance of competing for medals,” he said. The amount of success from one’s country will affect how interested and supportive one will become in the games. In that case, the Russians themselves can claim to have hosted a great Olympics!

Whether interested or not, the Olympic Games are created to represent all the true, good, and beautiful in the human spirit. When the history of the Sochi games is looked back upon, the controversies will be documented, the interesting facts archived, although what will be remembered and talked about the longest are all unique athletic achievements. Sochi was unique – in its own way!

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