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COLUMN: The Olympics In Review

Heights Columnist

Published: Sunday, February 23, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 23, 2014 22:02

As the 2014 Winter Olympics have now come to a close, we have the privilege of reflecting on this year’s games. The biggest question I have come to ask myself is, was Sochi the right choice? How did it even get chosen in the first place?
In 2007, after two years of debates, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) made the executive decision to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. President of the IOC Jacques Rogge has previously declared on the Olympic website that the Committee takes two years to make its selection “to ensure that the city that is elected is capable of hosting the Games and that the process is transparent for all involved.” And so, naturally, it seems that Russia is the most entitled of options, with its heaping pile of transparency.

While there have been many uncontrollable factors that have caused these Games to be extremely strenuous to host, we have simultaneously been given more insight to the mysterious world of Russia.

The IOC chose Sochi over Salzburg, Austria. But why? For a Committee that strives for a location that is both capable and transparent, Salzburg, to me, is clearly the right answer. This year’s Olympiad has continuously struggled from weather conditions, with temperatures never dropping below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and reaching 60 degrees Fahrenheit on several days. Those in Sochi had prayed for snow prior to the beginning of the Games, but were forced to resort to artificially producing snow. As a result, they have produced enough snow to cover 500 football fields, according to The New York Times. While the IOC could obviously not predict these weather conditions years in advance, these temperatures are not too abnormal, says National Geographic. Sochi will most likely be the warmest winter Olympic event in history. While the increasing warmth is some what attributed to global warming, many have started to question how changing temperatures will now affect the feasibility of the Winter Games in the years to come. For Vancouver in 2010, 300 truckloads of snow were brought to the event to make up for the lack of snow and rising temperature. However, temperatures have always (obviously) been of main concern when hosting the winter event.

When reading an article in National Geographic about the climate change and its effect on the Winter Olympics, I was introduced to the studies of Daniel Scott. Scott and his team have analyzed the locations of the past 19 Games, ultimately determining that all previous host cities would, at the moment, be capable of still hosting the Winter Olympics. However, Scott has proclaimed that by the “midcentury” only half of these cities will be capable, and by the “late century,” only six would be able. As many of us look forward to the winter events, and as it has become a tradition of nationalistic, friendly competition, perhaps we are all now forced to question what the future holds. While I could be called somewhat of a “greenie” and have already often feared the future implications of the world’s current disregard for the environment, perhaps these Games have now opened the eyes to many who previously did not really pay attention. What if we could never again hold the Winter Olympics?
In addition to the unpredictable warmth that competitors have endured in Sochi, why would the IOC pick Sochi if they sought a city that could promise transparency? Reporters covering the Games have continually brought up their confusion and have been unable to discern where all of the money is going. Costing at least $50 billion, according to USA Today, a third of this total amount has been lost. Talk about transparency … but, in Russia, this is no anomaly.

The topic of Russia, and what seems to be Vladimir Putin’s never-ending reign, has been brought up for years. During my senior year in high school, I took a Comparative Politics class in which we studied Russia. My study of the country has taught me about the questionable goals of Putin, an ex-officer of the KGB who then moved into the political realm. Things started to grow fishy in 1999 with President Boris Yeltsin, under whom Putin was responsible for relations with regional governments. Suddenly, in August of 1999, Yeltsin replaced his Prime Minister with Putin. By December of the same year, Yeltsin gave up his presidential office and put Putin in charge instead. Since then, Putin has weaved through the powerful seats of the executive—switching with Dmitri Medvedev to serve as prime minister and then returning to presidential office again.

While Putin seeks to place Russia as a leading nation once again, is a life free of corruption and misdoings forever impossible in the Russian world? USA Today announced that a study by the Global Financial Integrity in February of 2013 had discovered that over $200 billion had been lost to “illicit financial outflows stemming from crime, corruption and tax evasion from 1994 to 2011.” This proves a problem for the people of Russia, for such money could be used to better their own lives and state of their country. A country starved of its financial wealth does not seem to have a promising future of global leadership, especially when it has corruption rooted in its system.

The $50 billion that was apparently spent on this year’s Games did not prevent a variety of problems from occurring, as images of bizarre toilets to brown water to malfunctioning door locks spread across the web. Many have been astounded to discover the conditions of the event, especially when it is the most costly Winter Olympics in the history of the Olympics. A country that declares itself a democracy fails to live up to the democratic promise of transparency, as truckloads of money constantly disappear from the nation. Where is all of this money going, and what does the future hold for Russia? Being a host of an Olympic event is a position worthy of respect and attention for every city that has been granted the opportunity. But perhaps this is a platform the Russians should have avoided, as now the world has focused so much attention on the country that its mysterious mishaps are in the spotlight.

Editor’s Note: The views presented in this column are those of the author alone and do not represent the views of The Heights

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