By Miles Brown
Feb. 17, 2014
An article by Sarah Kaufman of PolicyMic is making its rounds on Facebook lately. It’s called “#SochiProblems Is More of An Embarrassment For America Than It Is For Russia.” Taken on its face, this article is a passionate plea for Americans to be more sensitive to the issues that the average Russian faces every day. In reality though, this article is incredibly flawed and offers an overly-simplistic account of the events leading up to the now ubiquitous hashtag.
Kaufman’s article is a red herring in its most vibrant form. She attacks the people of the United States while giving Putin and his government a pass for their ridiculous lack of preparation and professionalism. What’s more, the Twitter account largely responsible for the complaints she lambasts “whiny” Americans for was actually created by a Canadian blogger.
Her piece paints broad strokes, purporting that it is shameful to mock the conditions of those less fortunate than you, especially if you live in a country like the United States — trotting out the trite notion that all Americans are insensitive and ignorant. But this is flawed. The people who are sharing and posting #sochiproblems memes and tweets are not doing it because they enjoy bashing the less fortunate. It has more to do with the ineptitude of the government and the rampant corruption taking place in Sochi.
Russia spent over $50 billion on these Olympics and had seven years to prepare. It has been the most expensive winter games in history. It’s not logical to assert Americans should be embarrassed because Russia, with the same amount of time and a significantly greater amount of money on hand than in previous host cities, could not fix basic problems before the Olympics began. The fact that an Olympic athlete gets stuck in an elevator two days after having to break down a bathroom door he was stuck in has nothing to do with the Russian people or the way they live.
The United States is not picking on Russia. This criticism is warranted, and is historically normal. When you’re a host city on the world’s biggest stage, everything will be scrutinized. Take, for example, the complete lack of preparation in Athens in 2004; or the smog in Beijing during the 2008 summer games; or the 2010 games in Vancouver, which were called the “worst games ever” for constant organizational mishaps.
Let’s be honest: This is par for the course.
Miles Brown is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s majoring in political science and history with a certificate in Russian, East European and Central Asian Studies. His political stance is best described as classic Progressivism in the vein of Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Croly. His post college plans are, as yet, undecided, but he’ll probably go into public policy research.