Saturday, February 08, 2014

Potemkin (Olympic) Village

A friend sent this link: Sochi, $50 billion and perhaps the most corrupt Games ever.  You know, for spending $50 billion you'd think Sochi would have doors that worked and bathroom taps with water that isn't toxic when there even is water.  Just sayin'.

Possibly more annoying/distressing: some of my friends are turning into actual Sochi apologists, arguing that we shouldn't judge Sochi facilities by "Western" standards and that we're being nasty for doing so.  Uhhh ... NO.  Excuse you, but if Sochi wanted the Games so badly for a two-week-long Putin-a-Palooza to impress the world, then it's clearly doing it wrong.  If you put yourself out there on purpose on the world stage, then you should bloody well expect people to judge you by pretty high standards.  The Sochi apologists should try staying in one of the wretched hotels for a while themselves.  Then again, some people never miss a chance to parade their own preening moral superiority.

If you're going to use the Sochi Games to put up a 2014 version of a Potemkin village, then perhaps you should reacquaint yourself with just what a Potemkin village is.

OK, OK, so there's also going to be an argument about how Russia is unfairly judged, how journalists can be subject to biases and preconceptions, etc.  Maybe.  But there is plenty of fodder for legitimate complaint without dipping into old-school prejudices that Russia is a cold, backward, vodka-drenched, lawless wasteland populated by people who drive like lunatics or whatever.   We don't even have to go there.  You don't want to judge the facilities and creature comforts?  Fine.  Let's just judge Russia's political leadership, then.  Is that less touchy for you?  All we have to do is look at Putin.  Should we say "Iran"? "Syria"? "P*ssy Riot"?  How about the ugly legal assault on the rights of gay Russians?  Come on.  Come on.  

And NO, the fact that you're hosting the Games doesn't mean that you're immune from criticism.  I lambasted Beijing relentlessly during those Games, and I think in part I did it because I could tell some Western journalists were holding back (fears of being called racist?).  You know, you can tell people are holding back now too.  Screw the apologists.  SCREW 'EM.

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