Sunday, 9 February 2014

2014 Sochi Winter Games

I have always longed to see my Ice Cream houses. Some, call this Red Square, but to my mother it was the Forbidden City. It was the place of dangerous sabre rattling men that banged their shoe on the table at the United Nations. It was the place of our enemy. The great Soviet Bear poised to nuke our cities and kill our children. But to me it was the place that had Ice Cream houses. The colourful spires representing soft ice cream of delicious and exotic flavours, and to my Mom; fear and destruction.
I am not sure if it is the duality of our worlds or if it is the point of perspective but I’ve never feared this Great Russian Bear. They were, after all, our allies during the war my father fought in. In fact of any of the countries involved they arguably suffered the most. Twenty million proud and incredibly resilient people lost their lives. So how could a country, or friend, that fought alongside us turn against us. They had already demonstrated their superior intelligence.  Beating us in the race for space, so they had to know starting a war would kill their children too.
So while my mother at the time said I could never go, I can honestly say I never lost the desire or the hope I would.  This dream almost came true in 1992, but events beyond my control took life in a different direction.  That direction continued, and continues today, but only till May.
Keep this in mind while reading this blog for potential bias. I watch the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Games with enormous pleasure.  Having the courage to accurately show the history of Russia to an audience, like my mother, that still view this country with guarded suspicion to others that view it with outright disdain was courageous. It was speedy in its transitions and focused on entertaining, rather than educating, but it was inclusive. While slightly avant guard in its symbolism, it was easily understandable, in all languages, and immensely entertaining.
If you believe my perspective regarding suspicion is harsh let me shed a light on this observation. There has been a ton of bad press surrounding these games. Some of it deserved and other plays on stereotypes. A statement made in English about cameras in hotel bathrooms gets tons of air time on many networks. Is any consideration given that the person making the statement is under immense pressure and speaking in a tongue not native to him? Nope, the networks just run with the stereo typed sound byte. If USA Today ran with a story that St. Patrick day celebrations ended with party goers being escorted home in a paddy wagon would it not be called racist? I believe it would. (Paddy is a derogatory slang for Irish and drunk is a stereotype. Akin to saying violent Nigger)
Much has been made about the US president not attending the games. Theories abound about the reason for this. The most likely is that during the Georgian War, Georgian forces retreated from their border when the Russian Federation advanced. This allowed for an unguarded border that could have allowed hostiles bent on terror into the area.  Hostiles that are not friendly to the US or the Russian Federation. But we will never know. Because neither our Prime Minister nor The President will comment officially.  But why the conspiracy? The US President didn’t come to Vancouver either.  This didn’t create any conspiracy theories about it being a snub because of Chechen terrorists or Gay Rights.  But then Quebec Separatists’ were quite then and in Vancouver waving a rainbow flag is about as common as finding a polite Canadian.
So can we really call the mass media racist in the way they are focusing on the issues of the Sochi Games? Perhaps not entirely. But we can call them ignorant, spoiled, and remiss. Ignorant in viewing a culture that has only had its current freedoms for twenty four years yet comparing it to others that have been "free" for over two hundred. Remiss in providing balanced journalism in an attempt to accurately inform rather than titillate or grab a headline. How long ago were the Gay Raids in clubs on Toronto and New York City? How long has our two countries been cool with Gay rights? When was the first Black baseball player? How long after emancipation? The large number of journalists being educated in US schools, in a country shown to be spying on its populace! Perhaps even using Angry Birds game to do so? While international companies like Apple confirms SIRI gathers intel and keeps it for years? Really? I am the only person with the hypocrisy alarm ringing?  As for the spoiled comment let us all remember the slagging we got in Vancouver about substandard accommodation. Really Vancouver?
It is an incredible achievement for any city to pull off an Olympic event. Montreal paid for theirs for years. Vancouver, a city used to massive building projects, struggled under the stresses even with thousands of unemployed. Sochi is a resort city seeing up to four million visitors per year yet only has a population of about 420 thousand.  Journalism is supposed to be about perspectives and information not titillation and pouncing on racial stereotypes.  Canada we only let First Nations vote in elections after 1960 and America you were still arguing about women’s rights into the 70’s. Saudi Arabia has a worse stance on gay rights, and deplorable human rights especially towards the above mentioned groups. But they do have some of the most wonderful hotels in the world, and oil...Propaganda. It’s not just for Russia anymore. 

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