What do you do with a problem like Sochi?
I’m Just Sayin’
by SHEILA SMITH
The Olympic games signify a time when the world comes together and pretends to get along while watching dedicated athletes compete in a variety of sports. (However, I maintain the belief that the luge is just someone reclined on a board, gliding down a frozen slide).
This year’s Olympics, however, is more like attending a big party in pre-World War II Germany before the Nazis showed their true colors.
Though I once faithfully followed the winter and summer Olympic events, this year I can’t seem to focus on the U.S. winning gold as much as I am watching Sochi crumble.
The first major issue with Sochi was that the Russian government really does not like gay people. Last year the government passed “anti-propaganda” laws that pretty much make it illegal to produce or distribute any literature (Nazi Germany, anyone?) or what-have-you that says gay is okay or states that gay relationships are equal to straight ones. Considering that some Olympic contenders are gay, and many of the people flocking to Sochi as spectators are gay, some wondered if they would be thrown into a prison camp in Siberia upon arrival and Russia would just tell the public, “What gay people? We haven’t seen any gay people.”
The Sochi mayor even told the press he was not worried about anti-gay laws marring the games because, according to him, there are no gay people in Sochi (making Sochi the lone place in all the world where there are no gay people.)
Then, people began speculating Sochi was not ready for the Olympics. Journalists confirmed this through social media a few days before the games began, as they tried to check into hotels that were still under construction. (Take note: reservations had been made several months, up to a year, in advance.)
One German photographer told the Associated Press that construction workers – and stray dogs – were still roaming in and out of rooms. CNN booked 11 rooms but, upon arrival, found only one was ready. And I don’t mean they were waiting for mints on their pillows – the rooms were not finished or furnished. Some elevators and heating units were not ready to run. One hotel lobby had no floor (but did have a nice 8×10 of Russian Dictator – er, President Vladimir Putin). One hotel lost water but employees warned guests not to use the water if it was restored – “because it contains something very dangerous.” One journalist shared a picture of said dangerous water, which could only be described as a very dark shade of urine.
In fact, as I type this, much of the Olympic destinations and facilities are still under construction while the games are well underway. Granted, there was much work to be done. Russia even reached out to surrounding, poorer countries for construction workers. However, according to the Washington Post, about 100 of those people were detained then deported – conveniently after their work was done, but before they were paid.
Some residents have even been displaced. When Sochi won the bid to host the Olympics, officials told many residents, “Hey, you have to sell us your house. We need to build over it.”
Since it’s Russia, people had no choice. Of course some didn’t have to sell their homes but lost them anyway. One woman is currently living in a shack because shoddy construction on a nearby hotel caused her two-story home to collapse.
Then there are the dogs. Apparently, Sochi is overrun with roughly the same amount of stray dogs as Louisiana has mosquitoes. So the government contracted a “pest control and disposal” company to handle the dogs – and by handle I mean kill for no good reason.
Alexei Sorokin, the director of the pest control firm, was quoted by the Post as saying, “God forbid [a dog runs in the stadium] at the actual opening ceremony. This will be a disgrace for the whole country.”
I don’t know, Al. Russia itself is sort of a disgrace.
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