Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sochi Watch No. 1: A cynical round-up of Sochi news so far

Charlie Brooker does this better than me but here we go...

In one of the hilarious and un-PC "Youtube Haikus" a bottle of tomato ketchup on wheels sprays a jet of condiment onto a table. The soundtrack to this clip is a rendition of the iconic 20th Century Fox theme played very badly on recorder by the worst primary school orchestra in Truro. Judging by the early reactions to Sochi 2014 this was pretty much what it looked, sounded and felt like to be a journalist witnessing the opening of the games.

It all looked like a proper Eastern European Olympics. First of all the Olympic rings didn't all light up. Secondly the host nation's prime minister was caught napping and, finally, the irony of asking lipstick-lesbian pop prats t.A.T.u to play a special concert was lost on the entire Russian government. It was the perfect gift for the post-Borat world to chortle in superiority and do those dreadful impressions your younger brother still thinks are funny. Twitter exploded with its usual propensity for disguised, viral racism and soon enough pictures of journalists chortling at dirty minibars and weird toilets filled our screens.

Then out came the athletes (but, sadly, not in the gay sense). Years of training and countless currencies have been poured into these bright young things who seemed something of an afterthought against the prevailing narratives of possible terrorism, gay rights and rubbish-hotel selfies. I'd try to defend Russia's hoteliers from the snobbish scoffing of the world press but when you consider the kind of money Russia spent on making these games impress my position loses ground. 

Where am I in all this? I can't really claim moral superiority as I have little interest in Winter sports. I have to put myself among the pro-LGBT rights campaign and watch the games really to see what develops in this debate. I thought I read somewhere that two athletes kissed on a podium but cannot for the life of me find a link anywhere so maybe it was just wishful thinking.

The British media went all out in exploring Russia's gay issues which deserves some level of praise. Taking the direct route via a bizarre interview with a leading anti-gay Russian politician revealed what we had all feared - the existence of a completely immobile mindset where some Duma members actually, genuinely believe that gays are all child abusers. Sigh. I sound like a Russian here but "chto delat'?" (WHAT IS TO BE DONE?!?!) 

In the meantime Kiev still burns, Top Gear make light of it, The One Show interviews a British medal winner and Pussy Riot are arrested again. I guess 2013 didn't end in December after all...

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