Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Global Scope: 2014 Winter Olympics

Next year promises to be a very exciting one in the wide world of sports, with the FIFA World Cup in Brazil happening during the month of June. However, for those of you who may not know the Winter Olympic games will also be taking place in Russia, in a town situated on the coast of the black sea, Sochi. The Winter Olympic Games will be hosted from the 7th of February up until the 23rd, with 98 events in 15 different sports. The Winter Olympic Games have been hosted on three different continents over time, but has yet to be hosted by one located in the Southern Hemisphere. Germany and Bosnia hosted the event one time each while Austria, Canada, Japan, Italy, Norway, and Switzerland have hosted the event twice. The United States and France are leading the pack in number of events held, with four and three respectively. Once February of 2014 comes around, it will be the first time a Russian city has hosted the games.

Since July 4, 2007, when Sochi defeated Salzburg (Austria) and Pyeongchang (South Korea; will be the host of the 2018 games) in the bid process, Russia's largest resort city has been brought up throughout the sport context many times. The small town, with over 350,000 people will be an official host city in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and was chosen as the ideal location for the Russian Formula I Grand Prix from 2014 until 2020.

Russia has experienced a long standing decline in sports, and Olympic, prowess which began with the fall of the Soviet Union. Some theories suggest that a team (country) cannot truly be successful without the threat of a rival lurking at all times, and this may well be the case for Russia, the former Soviet Union. Back in the day where the United States were the enemy/rival, winning (defeating the USA) was the only option, and that resonated in sports, naturally. A lot of turbulence has surrounded the nation since the fall of the Soviet Empire, and what's been left for the judgmental eyes of the world hasn't been exactly how Russia wants to portray themselves. This has - unfairly - left this small "resort" city in Russia to ultimately be in charge of creating their new image for the rest of the world, but that may be too large of a load to carry.

The city has proven itself not fit for such a world class event, and has fallen hostage to the government's "win at all costs" mentality that seems to haunt the sports world, and haunted the Soviet Union's Olympic program through its entire existence. The city has no world-class level athletic facilities fit for such international event, aside from a training center for aspiring Olympic athletes. To get the city ready for the games, the government had committed to a $12 billion investment package that would be shared between the government and the private sector, 60-40.

We are exactly 1 year away from the winter olympic celebration in Sochi, and the event has been surrounded by tough concerns and controversies. From environmental, economic, and political issues to  numerous human rights violations and even claims of "ethical cleansing." All we can do is hope that the 2014 Winter Olympic Games are very successful for the people in Sochi, and that the budget money from the government was indeed spent toward the development of the city and its infrastructure. A component of the measurement to judge if the event was successful is legacy (and all it encompasses) with the event's financial numbers always being the main factor. Unfortunately it seems to be inverted, where it should be the legacy's broad horizons as the main tool, with the financial numbers factoring into it all. It can be said that Russians are at a crossroad right now, where they have the opportunity to initiate a major "rebranding" of their culture (which seems to be the wanted outcome) or keep going down the same, and familiar path. When Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the Winter Olympics 'his baby' it is obvious what kind of impact this event can have for the nation. Although such a remark leaves me wondering if he was actually referring to Russia or just to himself.


  1. It is true that the Russians' decline in sports performance can be attributed to a lack of "win at any cost" mentality that was present when rivalry with the US was at its peak. However, I believe it is important to mention that this mentality also led to one of the greatest performance enhancing schemes ever heard of, which certainly played a major role on their success at the time.

  2. That's right Toco, the "win at any cost" mentality is not the right mentality, if you ask me! Also look at Lance Armstrong, and many other examples in North American sports.