the sochi canvas

I’m not particularly interested in the winter olympics, never was actually. But it’s near impossible to avoid them if one is a regular newspaper reader. So I pick up the occasional morcel that sticks out. For those interested in a recent this-is-where-we-are with these olympics, I assume Steven Lee Meyers (acting bureau chief of The NY Times’s Moscow office) Putin’s Olympic Fever Dream does a good job, so I can concentrate on what fits my fancies.

One issue that receives regular coverage, at least in the Dutch press, is the astonishing amounts of money that is being spend (Meyers’ piece also delves into that). Figures mentioned are all over the place, but they are all humongous, and it is clear that they beat whatever has been spend on other winter Olympics by a mile. This Dutch graphic (be aware that Dutch miljard means billion), visualizes the estimated costs for all winter Olympics, indexed to 2012 Euro values, totalling 35 billion, an amount that is less than the 40 they take as Sochi’s costs.

Equally interesting is the estimate that half of the money spent has leaked away (just a couple of references: the Guardian, Canadian CTV, the New Yorker) which would make this a candidate for the largest corruption case in world history. When one adheres to a mainstream definition of  corruption that is. Which I don’t. Doing away with the absurd requirement that corruption is only what is not legal, shows the world in a very different light. The  Jason Hickel reblog I posted recently would be a good start for that alternative perspective.

What wonders me more though, is why the IOC as the company managing the business side of the actual games (sponsorship & media contracts, tickets, etc) is so absent from the reporting. Similar to FIFA the smell of it being a nepotistic network facilitating lots of shady deals is strong, but investigative journalism doesn’t seem to pursue it much. Fear of their lawyers?

The games are like a white canvas that can be turned into many different paintings. But only some are actually painted and displayed. When Poetin uses the games to boost national pride that’s bad, didn’t hear that when the London games were very explicitly legitimated with exactly that argument.

In light of the use of the games as a platform to criticise Russia’s rulers – no problems with that,  don’t get me wrong – and the gay rights focus that seems to have  at the moment – again, nothing wrong with pointing that out – I enjoyed this piece in the Washington Post about The U.S. hypocrisy over Russia’s anti-gay laws

Controversy over a Russian law that prohibits advocacy of homosexuality threatens to overshadow athletic competition at the upcoming Sochi Olympics…Eight U.S. states, and several cities and counties, have some version of what we call “no promo homo” provisions…It is no coincidence that these examples focus on what must and must not be said to children…recall that in 2002 the United States proudly, and without comment, sent its Olympic athletes to a state — Utah — that prohibits the “advocacy of homosexuality.”

That was a picture I wasn’t yet aware of and it fits the Sochi canvas beautifully. Kudos to authors.

Like always, the games will be held, heroes will be made, pride will be boosted, cronies will be richer and the country will be poorer. Who better to sing about this than the Gorillaz:

About roger henke

Still figuring out the story line that would satisfy myself here. Listening to what my family and friends evoke, what the words I absorb, the images that move me, the movements that still me, point to.
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