The Olympics are in full swing, and people are grabbing on to the different things they hate about it being, “Not the west.” I am not going to touch on the full spectrum of topics available, because this isn’t the place for those discussions. Instead I would like to speak about common courtesy, and how it is lacking in many of those who have gone to Sochi.
I spent a short time living in a former Soviet country (5 months), which is far from enough time to make me an expert on the topic. I have some experiences from which to speak, as well as stories I heard from others. The reality of living in this area of the world is, sometimes your systems don’t work. The saying where I lived was, “If you have 2 of your 3 utilities (gas, power, water), you are doing well. There were quirks in my home to get used to. If I wanted hot water in the kitchen, I knew I would have to boil it. If I wanted to take a hot shower, I knew there was 2 minutes of hot water, so I used a basin, and saved the hose full of hot water to rinse myself. There were different things to get used to, but I had a roof over my head, a heater to keep me warm at night, and what more could a person need really. I never lost power in the whole apartment, I was only without water for a day or so the entire time, and the gas lines didn’t have any trouble.
There wasn’t a single thing which was a problem, just situations to work through with a different way of doing something for a while. Last night on the news there was a report about how terrible the conditions are in Sochi right now, I was bothered by the report (along with what I have seen on Twitter and Facebook from the athletes and reporters), and discussed it with a friend. This morning I saw a post from someone in the area complaining about the negative reports concerning the living conditions, she prompted me to write a blog entry to vent publicly.
The fact of the matter is, the housing situation in Sochi is glorious compared to what many people have, and is on par with how many people live in the world. It may not be up to some people’s level of comfort, but it is functional. When did reporting about the Olympics become a Mean Girls sequel? Why do we feel it is polite to go into another country and complain about everything?
Here is the short version of my thoughts on the subject:
– You are an athlete who has reached the top of your field. Whether you are sleeping on the floor, in the courtyard, on a bench, or at The Four Seasons isn’t the point. You are where every serious athlete dreams of being, at the Olympics, act in a manner befitting this honour.
– Reporters who are at the Games need to find better stories than how uncomfortable the restrooms are, and how you unfortunately have to share a room with other people because your rooms weren’t ready. A good journalist should be able to roll with the punches. If you cannot handle new experiences without complaining about there being salt on your Mai Tai glass, it is probably best if you stick to a desk or a studio.
– When you travel to another country you agree to deal with how things work there. If something goes wrong, it is an interesting experience to talk about later. Sort through the situation, I doubt you will be dead by the end of it, therefore it will all work out in the end.
If you invited someone to your house, and their twitter feed, Facebook, and loud phone calls were filled with stories about how awful a host they think you are it would be hurtful. Russia has invited you to their house, treat them with the respect a host deserves. When we complain, we are not shedding light on how bad the host is, we are showcasing how ungrateful a guest we are.