I know there has been a lot of hullabaloo about the Sochi Olympic Games. There are websites devoted to posting disparaging photos and updates about the conditions in Sochi. It is all over the news, because it is mostly the journalists who are posting such things. While I found it funny at first, I’ve changed my mind, and want to explain why.
When I first saw some of the posts, I thought it was hilarious. Mostly because it reminded me so much of some of the things that happened while I lived in Azerbaijan. This makes sense, because my town was only a 10 hour drive from Sochi. I Google-mapped it, so it’s true. I thought it was funny in a ‘haha, I’ve been there, I’ve gone through that, I understand that this is how things work in other countries’ way. The problem is that people are laughing in a ‘haha, these people are backwards and stupid’ kind of way. And that’s not helpful for anyone, least of all the people doing the laughing. There are things that we had to deal with on a daily basis – lack of electricity, interesting toilet situations, lack of clean drinking water to name a few. But that’s what we did – we dealt with it.
My thought is that, yes, some things are uncomfortable, and perhaps Russia should have done more to prepare for so many people from all over the globe. But the fact is that Sochi didn’t even really exist before Russia won the Olympics contract. It was a remote village in the Caucasus that was turned into a resort for the purposed of the games. This isn’t abnormal for the Olympics. Most cities aren’t ready to host the games when they win the opportunity to do so. Russia’s main problem is that they didn’t have things finished in time. And, yes, they probably should have tried harder to make this happen.
Here’s my plea to the journalists who are tweeting about how terrible things are for them in Sochi: Deal with it. Be sensitive to the fact that this is the reality for most people in the world. When you complain that the water coming out of your tap isn’t suitable for drinking, keep in mind that the water for over a billion people in the world isn’t suitable for drinking. When you complain about having to go to the hotel owner’s house to check in to your room, keep in mind that there are 28.8 million internally displaced people in the world, and 15.4 million refugees.
I’m not writing this to make people feel guilty about their lives, but to make them rethink the way they are publicly showing their elitism by blatantly disparaging the way that many people of the world are forced to live.
Instead of laughing about and making fun of Russia, perhaps the journalists could be focusing on the true purpose of the games – to bring the world together. Instead of laughing and complaining about the lack of amenities, perhaps the journalists could call attention to the fact that conditions like this exist in the first place. Instead of laughing and grumbling about how unhelpful the Russian people are, perhaps the journalists could learn about their background. Ask about the conditions about their children’s’ schools, ask about if they’ve ever had drinkable water come out of their tap.
And for crying out loud, it isn’t the end of the world if you have to put your toilet paper in a bucket instead of down the toilet. Deal with it.