In the past months, the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia have been all over the news, but not for the reasons you would expect. While there has been extensive analysis on which athletes are favored to take home the gold medal, much of the media coverage surrounding Sochi was of its severe problems and hostilitiy toward the homosexual community. An article I wrote for the September 19 issue highlighted tensions between the LGBT community and the Russian government. Basically, it was possible that a gay couple could be heavily fined and imprisoned if they showed their affection for each other in public. However, after arduous debate and discussion, the Russian government announced a few months ago it would not be enforcing this punishment, but the anti-gay sentiment would still remain strong. After those events settled, it seemed like the controversy died down, but just days before the Games began, a whole new issue has surfaced and is dominating the media once again.
The current uproar in Sochi is over the fact that the city is a mess and completely unprepared to host visiting spectators and the participating athletes. This is absurd considering President Vladimir Putin has spent a whopping $51 billion on these Games, which begs the question: Why is the city in such bad shape? For now, it seems as if there is no clear answer. Regardless of the problems, this looks bad on Putin and Russia. Most Olympic Games have had problems with terrorism or security threats given the large amount of people crowded into one venue, but to have vast maintenance issues and inhumane treatment of animals is just inexcusable.
The hotels where athletes, reporters and spectators were supposed to stay during the Games are nearly unlivable. Hundreds of people have exposed these horrid conditions through Twitter posting about their outrageous hotel “accommodations.” In fact, a parody account called @SochiProblems has been made to specifically document all the various problems people have been running into at their hotels. An article written in the New York Post by Natalie O’Neill explained that water coming out from the sink was dark yellow and toxic when applied to the face. In most cases there is no water coming out of the sinks at all. Yet this is only one of the major problems plaguing hotel guests; they also have to deal with unfinished lobbies, spotty electricity, broken elevators and toilets that do not flush. Some of the more serious defects include exposed wires in hallways, stairwells and showers. Not only are the hotels unfinished and dangerous, the city itself is also largely under construction. People have posted pictures of construction workers rushing to cover exposed manholes and cracked sidewalks.
However, the worst part is the government’s treatment of the stray dog population. As most people now know, Sochi is overrun with homeless dogs that wander the city. The government plans to deal with this problem by exterminating them. According to an article written by Tom McKay, hundreds of dogs have already been killed and the death toll could be somewhere in the thousands by the time the Olympics end. This act of extermination is grotesque and inhumane. Not only does it cross all moral boundaries, but it puts very bleak morale over the Olympic Games. How can spectators be happy in Sochi knowing all the dogs they see will soon die a painful death?
The Olympics are supposed to be a friendly, exciting and relaxing competition that bring countries together, but the Sochi Games are certainly not following that path. These Games have already been marred with controversy and hostility toward the LGBT community and now problems in the city are taking away from the excitement surrounding the opening ceremonies. No one should have to deal with dangerous and inconvenient hotel conditions, especially not the athletes who need to put all their focus into the Games. The slaughtering of thousands of dogs just makes Sochi a depressing city. For all the money and time put into these Olympic Games, we should expect a more decent result.
Contact Charlie Enberg at [email protected]