BY CAROLYN QUEST
Sochi 2014 opened with a close. Literally. The now infamous malfunctioning Olympic ring in Sochi’s opening ceremony symbolized many of the debacles that took place at the games. More seriously, it represented Russian politicians’ closed-minded nature about equality and human rights that was discussed and protested throughout the games.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) chooses a country where the winter or summer Olympics is to be held. This country is to open its doors to all athletes and promote the attitudes of fairness and equality. In the past, the IOC has awarded the honor to countries that are on the rise and developing, such as Brazil, Rio in 2016. Other times, it challenges countries by putting them on the world stage.
While all politics is to be put aside during the games for altruistic competition, there is always political tension bubbling beneath the surface. While in 1980 the games in Russia held deep Cold War tensions, this year the Russian issue was about gay and human rights.
This was first displayed when the athletes of all countries walked into the arena of the opening ceremonies. The Greek athletes in particular were wearing gloves that had a different color on each fingertip: blue, yellow, black, green and red. These gloves were mistaken as a political protest for gay rights throughout the games. It turned out that the colors were actually the colors of the Olympic rings and the official gloves of the Sochi Olympics.
However, one Dutch snowboarder Cheryl Maas did show her support against Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law, which has such punishments as removing the children of same-sex parents from their home. Maas flashed her rainbow gloves to the cameras after her run to show an open display of protest and support of the gay community.
Safety was another concern at the Sochi games. The United States in particular took precautions for its athletes and citizens by stationing navy ships in the Black Sea for security. Unsafe and inadequate hotels were also a large problem. Press and guests were astonished on their arrival when many of their hotels didn’t have lobbies, contained exposed wires and furniture covered in plastic.
On a more comical note, the hash-tag #SochiProblems trended on Twitter from the mismanagement of the games. In particular one image of two female athletes sharing a public toilet stall, consisting of two toilets and one roll of toilet paper to share between them, went viral. Pictures of workers spraying Sochi’s brown grass green days leading up the opening ceremony let the world peak into this super power’s façade. Sochi’s games cost around $50 billion dollars, making it the most expensive games to date. If the facilities weren’t properly constructed, where did all that money go?
In addition, Sochi’s Olympic slogan “Hot. Cool. Yours.” left the international community pretty lost. With research I found that “Hot” represents the athletes passion, “Cool” represents the winter, or the range in temperatures in Sochi, and “Yours” is a call for the international community to celebrate the Olympics with Russia. However, this barley dissuaded my belief that the slogan was taken from a late night adult chat line add.
Whatever Russia’s downfalls at this game, Russian pride was on display at every event. Russia won the medal count for the games. They even had a great attitude about their opening ceremony malfunction by poking fun at itself in the closing ceremony. While thousands of closing ceremony participants stood in formation to form the Olympic rings at the center of the arena, the final ring of volunteers remained closed, which caused laughter among the audience at the ceremony. In addition, Putin followed through and respected the rights of gay athletes at the games. We can only hope that this attitude of fairness and equality carries over into Russian politics and social communities post Sochi.