The prospect of the Winter Olympics taking place in Russia was originally surrounded with anticipation and excitement. Given Russia’s rich cultural history and ideal climate for winter sports, it appeared that the country was a good fit for this storied competition.
Recently these feelings have taken a back seat to worry and second-guessing as the lead-up to the Games in Sochi have been anything but smooth. Reports from journalists, athletes and other professionals affiliated with the games suggest that Sochi isn’t the prepared host city that it claimed to be. Below is a discussion of the issues that have arisen in Sochi before the Games have even started.
Some of the biggest problems in the production of this year’s Winter Olympics are logistical issues, as cited by Newsday. For humans to reach Sochi it is a matter of traveling to Russia and catching a connecting flight. Material and equipment shipments face a much longer, roundabout path to the location of the games.
Considering that Sochi is an isolated resort town, it lacks access to the amenities necessary to create an infrastructure such as a hardware store, a machine company or a building supply yard. Without direct access to supplies and building materials, anything needed for construction and set-up for the games needs to be transported there from another location.
In particular, this has proved to be a problem for NBC, the network with the U.S. television rights for the Olympic games. Their VP for Olympic operations has called setting up the broadcasting infrastructure in Sochi one of the most difficult undertakings of his career.
Aside from logistical issues for putting on the Games, it appears that Sochi hasn’t yet completed the necessary amenities for hosting journalists, athletes and other professionals. Humorous evidence of Sochi’s lack of preparedness has surfaced via tweets from journalists who have arrived for the games.
This report from The Washington Post includes instances of unfinished hotel lobbies, dirty tap water and CNN officials only receiving one of their 11 reserved rooms. Other comical instances include the fact that the Olympic flame has gone out 44 times and that one hotel didn’t have a floor.
Sochi’s lack of preparation also has a more serious side as the accommodations, competition areas and the city itself present dangerous conditions. For instance, the streets surrounding the Olympic Park are full of trash, open manholes and loose wires. Reports from athletes have suggested that course conditions are dangerous, as the jumps are too steep. This has already led to the injury of one Norwegian competitor and United States snowboarder Shaun White withdrawing from an event.
Sochi Was a Poor Choice
When a city is proposed as a host for the Olympics, it must meet a list of certain criteria. Cities in question must prove that they are big enough to host the games, contain adequate accommodations and have proper transportation in place. It appears that Sochi has failed across multiple levels of these criteria. While the tweets from journalists poking fun at their hotel accommodations were humorous, they serve as a clear indication that Sochi is not ready to host the Olympic games.
Sochi is too small, too isolated and too underdeveloped to host an event of this caliber. While Russian officials made their best effort to construct new hotels and venues, it appears that they’ve fallen significantly short of their goals. Also, host cities are supposed to take pride in the event and benefit from it with new infrastructure and jobs. This hasn’t been the case as residents of Sochi have suffered damages to their homes, had waste illegally dumped in their neighborhoods, and had local ecosystems disrupted.
Everything about the preparation for the Olympic games in Sochi suggests that they have been too large an undertaking for the city to handle. For the sake of the athletes, residents and officials who are bearing with these difficult circumstances, let’s hope the trouble is worth it.