Sochi a success for everyone

Feb 26, 2014 by

Sochi a success for everyone

There were plenty of reasons to have mixed emotions heading into the Sochi Olympics. With concerns about terrorism, anti-gay legislation, protests of all kinds, unfinished construction sites, stray dogs and the neighboring Ukraine in political disarray, there was good reason to believe a tragedy of some magnitude could spill into the Olympic village.  Thankfully, aside from anecdotal stories from media members tweeting about their living conditions and having to defecate beside their buddies side by side without a barrier dividing them; Sochi will be remembered for being remarkably anti-climactic, in a good way, of course.

Unsurprisingly, no biathlete was shot during competition for being gay and Chechnyan rebels didn’t strike fear to the locals, tourists and the international community by blowing up themselves or any other strategic public space.  The low attendance at the Olympic Games suggests the mere threat of terrorism did in fact make a significant impact on people’s willingness to travel to Sochi. Perhaps that outcome could be seen as a small victory to some who are in need of such trivial triumphs and certainly the local economy may have suffered as a result; but as a showcase event and from an international standpoint the Sochi Olympics has to be considered a resounding success both off and on the field of play.

Except for an embarrassing quarterfinal loss to Finland in ice hockey, Russia as a sporting nation performed admirably, as their athletes won the most Gold (13) and total medals (33).  Countries expected to excel in a variety of sports such as the US and Canada did so, with both countries finishing in the top five in the medal standings.  There were plenty of compelling stories to follow such as the emergence of the sublime 15-year-old Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya, the continued winning tradition of the Dutch speed skating program, the unlikely comeback by the Canadian women’s hockey team over the USA and the perfection that embodied the Canadian men’s hockey team.

Additionally, this was an impressively “clean” Olympic games, unblemished by a major drug scandal where a top athlete was stripped of his medal.  If anything we were left in disgust by the only drug related incident worth noting on the final day of competition. The fact Nicklas Backstrom of Sweden’s hockey team couldn’t compete in the Gold medal game, for taking too much allergy medication and was informed of his “transgression” just hours before game time is simply nothing less than pathetic.  Certainly somewhere in the Olympic village during the Gold medal game, former President of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), Dick Pound could be seen waving his right index finger to a bunch old Norwegian ladies screaming  “See! I told you those hockey guys are as dirty as the rest of them”!  Good for you Dick.

The decision to withhold Backstrom from playing in the Gold medal game can’t be blamed on Sochi organizers. Instead the handling of this incident should be viewed as an indictment on the onerous and often questionable governance of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), who also drew criticism during the Olympics for not allowing the Canadian ski team to wear Sarah Burke’s number, in her memory, ruling the gesture was a “political statement”.    No one’s asking the IOC to be perfect, but occasionally they could allow for discretion in situations that are not black and white and require a sympathetic response.  Nonetheless, it feels trite to discuss trivial negative themes for an event that overcame the anticipation of disaster leading up to the opening ceremonies.    Now it’s time to celebrate the memorable moments and give credit to a nation who, without incident, welcomed the West into its region for an Olympic Games for the first time since the dissolution of the USSR. Sochi was a success for Russia; just don’t remind Vladimir Putin how badly his hockey team choked eh?


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