Russia’s about to welcome the world to Sochi, beginning a stretch somewhat akin to Brazil’s current stretch: in addition to these Winter Olympics, Sochi is hosting the Russian Formula 1 Grand Prix from 2014 until at least 2020, and is a host site for the 2018 World Cup. So this is clear: the world is, indeed, coming to the shores of the Black Sea. But is Sochi ready for the world?
There are some concerns — notably, the cost (it’s now over $50 billion), the security issues (the Alpine events will be in a mountain range that’s part of the North Caucasus, the mostly Muslim part of Russia that includes Chechnya), the LGBT climate, and the fact that, er, there may not be enough snow. USA Today went pun-heavy on this one: it is indeed “tough sledding” for the organizers of the 2014 Winter Games.
There are differing views on whether Sochi is truly ready — Buzzfeed has photos claiming they’re not (sidebar: I believe this is my 25th post, and it’s the first time I’ve linked Buzzfeed; I consider that a major personal win), whereas The Washington Post reports, via Russia, that all is good.
From a security measure standpoint, Russia is beefing up security (especially in the wake of the Boston bombings, as those brothers were from Chechnya), and has recently given assurances to other countries, such as Australia. The Olympic Park seems to be the site of the opening/closing ceremonies (typically associated with the most security, due to the amount of viewers), and a tour of other associated sites can be seen here:
Russia beat out South Korea and Austria for the chance to host the ’14 Games; the LBGT climate might have been a bit easier in those countries, to be sure. Should also be noted: the monitoring of communications will be fairly heavy. (It’s purportedly already begun with Facebook.) It got so awkward that 47K people, including George Takei, signed a petition to move the Games to Vancouver. Cher turned down a chance to sing at the Opening because of ‘gay hate.’
I’m hoping that the positive nature of humanity will prevail here, and the Games will go off without a hitch (for large global events, minus ’72 and ’96, people seem to rise to the occasion). I wanted to showcase something slightly more positive towards the end of this post, and in reality, there’s almost nothing as positive in the world as Olympic mascots. Russia seems to have five of them — a polar bear, a hare, a leopard, a snowflake, and a ray of light. On the website, they live in a house together. Odd. Ever seen a polar bear speak Russian?
If you have broader questions about Sochi, read this AMA from Reddit. A final thought: 1972 (Munich) was actually the first year that a video was required as part of the bid pitch; that’s essentially a cornerstone of the modern bid process. In a lot of ways, Munich represents the ‘dawn of the modern Olympics,’ and that’s not necessarily a good thing when you consider some Sochi parallels.