Pedley's Ponderings

Sochi? More like Skechi


             The 2014 Winter Olympic Games have been anything but par for the course, and we’re only half a week in.

    Friday’s opening ceremony marked the beginning to an event that was years in the making. Russian President Vladimir Putin pleaded and prodded the International Olympic Committee to get the games to Russia, and his efforts proved fruitful when they named Sochi as the 2014 host city more than half a decade ago. It was one of Putin’s crowning personal achievements and many felt it signified Russia’s return to power following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s.

    Despite Russia’s fervent attempts to get things right and prove they were a worthy choice, Sochi has been a train wreck on numerous levels. Russia has faced worldwide criticism for various issues related to the country’s politics and how they’ve prepped for the games. Their terrible human rights record and corrupt government haven’t been absent from Olympic discussion, and it’s turned the games into the inevitable political charade they always become.

    There’s plenty of other reasons to raise an eyebrow regarding the setting of these Winter Games. Recent reports indicated Sochi was woefully unprepared to host such a huge event, and many facilities weren’t completed (or had no hope of completion) prior to the Opening Ceremony. The 2014 games are the most expensive on record at a price tag of more than $50 billion, and one would think such copious amounts of cash could have helped Russia jump a few hurdles during the preparation process.

    Sochi’s weather climate is even more head-scratching than the city’s blatant unpreparedness for the two-week event ╨it’s situated along the Black Sea and enjoys year-round subtropical temperatures. This week’s Sochi forecast called for temps in the 50s with scattered rain showers. Rain showers.

    Obviously, such conditions aren’t ideal for snow accumulation, but those crafty Russians have their bases covered. They’ve stockpiled snow from past years high above in the surrounding mountaintops, and they’ve  also amassed an artillery of snow cannons to ensure a plentiful covering of the white stuff at each event. It seems even Mother Nature isn’t free from the overpowering muscle of Mighty Russia nowadays.

    There’s plenty of other shady things to hit on regarding these games. Sochi’s large stray dog population might be the biggest losers in the Olympics, as city officials announced many would be euthanized in the lead-up to the opening events. Additionally, the Russian government outwardly admitted they’d be monitoring the texts, phone calls and computers of all journalists covering the games.

    2014’s Winter Games just feel forced. I haven’t experienced the rush of patriotism or the overload of American bravado that I often feel during the lead-up to the Olympics. I hope our athletes crush the competition and bring home the gold, but honestly I just hope everyone gets out unscathed. Security at the Olympics has been drawn into question and a tumultuous Russian political climate have more than few people wringing their hands. Russia and Sochi might have been somewhat unprepared for these games, but let’s just pray security measures weren’t something they skimped on.

    The host country is sketchy, the location is less than ideal, and an air of uncertainty hangs over this year’s Winter Games. Nonetheless, they’re here. Even though I’m less excited about the Olympics than past years, I’m going to keep my fingers crossed that everything goes off without a hitch. As long as we beat Canada in the medal count and in hockey, I’ll be content with America’s performance.

    U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A╔.

    Nick Pedley is the news editor of the Hampton Chronicle.