Putin’s Olympics

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#Sochiproblems is more of an embarrassment for American than for Russia

The above article has been drifting through the social networks lately and it deserves comment.   At first blush, the author is correct to point out the shallow pettiness of Americans expressing their unsubtle schadenfreude.  Schadenfreude is by it’s very nature petty, but the author is treating the Sochi Olympics like any other Olympics when it most certainly is not.

The Olympics are hosted in countries around the world and nowhere is the host city really “ready” for the Olympics.  “Readiness” isn’t the issue.  If you told the world that accommodations would be sparse and primitive people would have flocked to them anyway.  They would have called it “camping” or some such nonsense and enjoyed it.  It’s not about the accommodations.  In so much as I feel sorry that Russians have to live in Russia, we’re talking about a state that exists as a deeply dysfunctional kelptcracy and has managed to hold on to enough influence in the world to actively make the world a worse place, all the while touting its inherent awesomeness.  The problem is the hubris of demanding attention on the world stage while gleefully violating civil rights, curtailing freedoms, and abetting war crimes and genocide around the world.  Russia is using the Sochi Olympics as a show case for it’s power and sophistication at home and abroad, and it took mere minutes of real scrutiny to pierce the facade.

There’s nothing wrong for an American to point out the poisonous tap water, but there is for a Russian.  It’s fun and games for everyone else but not in Putin’s Russia.  For decades, Putin has been tightening control over the press, social media, and the internet.  Honest reporting about glitches in Sochi are not tolerated by the Putin’s regime.  How can they be when Sochi is, at the moment, a symbol for Russian prowess.  Russia is running as fast as Putin can take her into a new dark age and no one in Russia seems to mind.  Even if free, honest, and fair elections were held tomorrow do you seriously think that Putin would lose?  That’s the bitch about democracy, even (and sometimes especially) autocratic dictators tend to be very popular.

So the pettiness has a point.  If Russia is going to use the Olympics as a symbol of it’s might and glory, the rest of the world is going to point out the flaws, the failings, and horrors.  I have no idea what will provoke change in Russia, but I know that change won’t come if we ignore problems, especially symbolic problems.  #sochiproblems may be petty, but it’s a necessary pettiness.


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