Anyone who knows me (or reads me), knows I’m a huge fan of the Olympics. They are the only sports I watch, and although I can’t quite put my finger on it, I think the reason they are so compelling is because the stakes appear to be so high. We have entire countries battling each other not with missiles but with the fastest, most athletic people they have. There’s more national pride at stake than any other international sporting event other than the World Cup, except the Olympics don’t suck. And while you’ll never catch me dead watching Couple’s Ice Dancing or Balance Beam Hippity-Hopping any other day of the week, every two years I’ll be glued to the T.V. like glitter on an elementary school art project.
So here we are in the midst of Russia’s Winter Olympics, being held in a town so subtropical it has palm trees. And while lamestream news outlets have been focused on medal counts, the country’s openly-encouraged gay-bashing, or freakin’ Chobani yogurt, many have missed the most ridiculous stuff that has been going on behind the scenes. Not only do these things confirm every stereotype I’ve ever had about Russia, it further proves that the cold war has simply turned into a wintery mix and it’s as awesome as ever. Here’s some of the stuff you might have missed:
1) The Entire Area Is Cut Off From The World
It’s no real secret that these games have more security than any other in history. It’s partly understandable: Putin has been the victim of a shit-ton of terrorist threats and an attack on his home turf wouldn’t look very good until it’s inevitably nominated for a bunch of Oscars. But the lengths he and his security team have gone to make sure nothing happens has crossed over into cartoonish territory.
First off, there is a single 60-mile road and a single railroad that leads into the city, which funnels through a huge concrete checkpoint with dogs and thousands of internal security service officers. There are anti-aircraft batteries and trucks full of missiles located right next to Olympic Park, alongside completely un-camouflaged mountain hide-outs.
All of this packed inside a “wall of security” full of 40,000 troops and an ungodly amount of corruption. As great as it would be for the Olympics not to be blown to hell, this seems like a bigger waste of money than those Flappy Bird iPhones on eBay.
2) The Whole Hotel Situation
Social media has been abuzz with hilarious/sad pictures of the hotel atrocities that foreign journalists have had to deal with (checking into a hotel that is literally still being built around you must be an unpleasant experience). You may have even heard the story of one journalist was told by the front desk not to use the sink water on her face because of the laughably vague reason that it “contained something very dangerous.”
Stacy St. Clair (@StacyStClair) February 04, 2014
Understandably, these seemingly common incidents of craziness prompted an official response from Dmitry Kozak, the Deputy Prime Minister. Believing that all these reports to be an active sabotage of Russia’s integrity, he assured everyone that “we have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day.” So you see? Everyone’s purposefully trying to make Russia look bad. They can prove it because they were watching you shower. Conveniently, an aide then skirted Mr. Kozak away and prevented him from answering any more questions about surveillance, because maybe he wasn’t supposed to say that.
In an ironic twist, the U.S. State Department warned travelers not to expect any privacy when traveling to Sochi because the secret service in Russia legally monitors virtually all forms of private communication (Wow, I wonder what that’s like?).
Even creepier, the hotel complexes were built to the standards of Eastern Bloc urban planning: huge carbon-copy concrete monoliths with numbers instead of names (apparently breakfast is served in Building 10). When a reporter asked why there was a Christmas tree in one of the lobbies, one of the workers shrugged, saying “It’s Russia.” I mean, really, do I even need to use hyperbole at this point?
3) They Pushed Everyone Out (And Destroyed Their Homes For No Reason)
On October 23rd last year, police sporting black masks and AK’s burst through the door of Nina Toromonyan’s home in Sochi and forced everyone out at gunpoint, including a 9-year-old. Even though her family had lived there for 40 years, officials cited legislation known as
Order 66 Law 301, which stated that the Russian government could just swoop in and cease any land they wanted in order to make room for Olympic infrastructure (in this case, a new highway). So they gave her entire family modest compensation that barely covered the cost and destroyed her house. Even if it did cover the entire cost, would you want to give up your house right this second?
According to the regional authorities, they relocated more than 1,000 people, and “very few people complained” (maybe no one could hear them?) Oh, and that highway they were making room for? Ya. Turns out it was already built, two miles away from Nina’s rubble pile.
On top of this nonsense, workers building the Black Sea resort in Sochi didn’t take gravity into account when erosion from the construction obliterated the village at the bottom of the mountain. Irina Vorochkova first noticed something was amiss when land around her house started moving on it’s own, without any kind of wizard spell acting upon it. As she explained later, “It started slowly with little things, like the poles for the clothesline were not quite in the same place, the borders of the garden had moved. Then the front of my house fell off.” And now she lives in an aluminum shack while Putin rubs million-ruble bills all over his beautifully shaved chest.
It’s a shame that more attention was paid to the stray dogs being executed than the human people becoming homeless. Unfortunately for them, pictures of sad, old people don’t do as well on Buzzfeed.
4) The Propaganda
You may have noticed during the opening ceremonies that one of the big rings got caught and didn’t expand like it was supposed to. Well, if you were watching that from Russia you would have seen it work correctly. Did they finally invent time travel? No, they just cut to rehearsal footage when they realized something was amiss. According to Putin, it was of utmost priority to showcase Russia’s flawlessness, even if it meant completely lying. Man, they are worse than NBC.
Ok so what, we aren’t at 1984 levels here. We get it, Putin just wanted to make sure nothing embarrassing happened during the games. Which probably explains why he gagged Russian reporters to prevent them from publishing the biggest stories that we in the states heard all about. Then, all the state-run media accused ours of being biased, claiming that we all just wanted to see Russia fail. While I’m not one to come to the defense of the U.S.’s industrial-media complex, I can assure Russia that the stories of the damn hotel rooms not being finished were probably not made up, since we live in an age where every single person has a high-def camera in their pocket and a single picture of a hotel staff member not wearing a hard hat would have been enough to discredit the whole thing.
Oh well. I guess we’ll just have to accept that the world is imperfect and our biased media portrays Russia as some evil, corrupt government when in reality we’re all just jealous because all we have is NBC and freedom fries.
Eh. On second though, fuck you. Go Team U.S.A.
*cue American Flag banner with giant eagle singing God Bless America drinking a coke*