I've been following @SochiProblems like the rest of you, because holy shit, it's like somebody wrote a months-long SNL sketch about what would happen if the Olympics were in Russia! But it's for real! In a post about a completely different subject, FilmDrunk's Vince Mancini asked, "You know how the Sochi Olympics are kind of like this perfect storm of catharsis, where every crappy thing and mean stereotype we ever had about Russia are confirmed in a spectacularly public fashion?" Yeah. That! And while it's felt kind of shitty to laugh at all these problems, also: These Olympics! Man! They haven't even started and they're terrible!
Usually, I enjoy watching the Winter Olympics (screw the summer ones, those are fucking boring), which means I've been looking forward to watching these games, despite all of their well-publicized problems. But two pieces I read earlier today made me think about things a little differently. They point out the big problems about the games—the sanctioned bigotry, the obvious ineptitude, the unprecedented corruption, the killing of stray dogs—but they also zoom out and put things in a bigger context in a way that, say, @SochiProblems doesn't.
Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel points out one of the more sobering facets of all the "lol Sochi's hotel rooms suck" tweets:
Despite travel warnings, gobs of journalists have ventured to Sochi and found accommodations to be... lacking. Even the toilets are fucked up. Athletes and journalists have shared images of double toilets, audience toilets, and toilets with the lids installed backwards to social media, and everyone's having a laugh.
But when I think of an athlete winning a gold medal, only to return to his room to throw their poo paper away in a small bin next to their commode, I don't find laughter. I feel despair. And then I think—this is Russia rolling out the fancy shit (no pun intended). Imagine the conditions under which non-foreign non-journalists live in Russia when the country isn't trying to show off on the international stage. (Via.)
Meanwhile, sci-fi author John Scalzi has a post up on his blog, Whatever, that at first seems uncharacteristically angry, but then... yeah. His reasons for sounding angry are legit.
I’m sitting them out. The longer version is that the unfathomable graft and incompetence and horrible homophobic bigotry that surrounds this particular iteration of the Olympics has massively swamped my usual benign indifference to the thing. Usually I don’t care about the Olympics, but I see them as harmless and don’t mind if they occasionally impinge on my consciousness. This time I’m actively disgusted by them and will go out of my way to avoid them. (Via.)
There's more to think about, too, from the banning of dissidents to everybody getting hacked to terror threats to displaced residents to sexy spy cam showers to fucking SNOW LEOPARDS. (Snow leopards are okay. Dogs aren't.)
In the big picture, whether or not one decides to watch the games won't really matter. And people's arguments for watching them will come down, I suspect, to the same reasons that countries are participating in the games despite all of this shit: They're the Olympics, and everybody tries to be cool during the Olympics, and the athletes have trained hard to be there. And all that's fine. But there's no way around the fact that for anyone paying attention, watching these Olympics will come with, at the very least, some amount of hesitation. What's the tipping point where that hesitation turns into avoidance? Or anger?