Cheap Olympic criticisms make us all look like ugly Americans

February 17, 2014
gold meals

OLYMPIC TRADITION: Criticize what’s important and set aside pettiness, please.

I have loved the Winter Olympics ever since I watched Franz Klammer defy fear and gravity to win the downhill gold at the 1976 Innsbruck Games. So I have to tell you: I have had enough with the open warfare taking place online and in the media against the 2014 Sochi Games.

Certainly, there is room for condemnation of Russia’s stance toward gays. And I am proud that the gay community didn’t choose to boycott the games, and instead, like Jesse Owens in Berlin, stood against thuggery with voice and performance and this year, Johnny Weir’s outfits.

But the pettiness and nastiness of the majority of the criticism out there seems to be a politically fueled attack that smacks of Cold War propaganda, and is often being triggered by media and then reverberated through social media.

My breaking point came yesterday morning when the Huffington Post reported how Olympic-hurdler-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones slammed the food at the Sochi Olympic cafeteria in a now-deleted video on Instagram. It comes a week after former NFL player and now-Olympic-bobsledder Johnny Quinn claims to have had to break through a door to escape a locked Sochi bathroom.

Now I love Lolo, and I am sure that her lucrative deal with Nike affords her the luxury of five-star cuisine. But you would think that this world-class, two-sport Olympian would understand that complaining about the food in a foreign country is the ultimate act of American boorishness. The same for Quinn, whose tale seems more like an act of vandalism than a reaction to a life-threatening situation.

The media, for its part, didn’t even take the time to validate his story. Just look at the picture. How do you manage to blow a hole in a door without knocking it off its hinges? Instead, they re-purposed Quinn’s own photo showing a door that looks as if it was shattered by a shotgun blast, rather than shouldered open by a wide receiver, all the while snickering at its cardboard core. (I’m sure that few of the reporters realize that hotel doors back home are either hollow or made of plastic.) For the media, it was yet another opportunity to make fun of the Russians, their backwardness and stupidity.

Let’s slap ‘em upside the head for shoddy workmanship, instead of recognize their effort to extend the Olympic tradition. Let’s call them out for using the Olympics as every country does, to showcase their country and in the case of Sochi, a part of the world that has suffered from recent conflict. Why even try to understand them, their effort, or a culture that places two toilets in a single bathroom, when we can assume a John Stewart-like, smart-ass posture and poke fun at everything and anyone who isn’t one of us? Try it. It’s fun!

The entire affair started when Mitt Romney attacked the Russians for security lapses while campaigning a full 18 months before the Games even began. (So far, so good.) The media then piled on by spotlighting an Olympic ring that failed to light during the opening ceremonies. Don’t the Russians know the route to avoiding malfunctions, wardrobe and otherwise, is to unplug the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ guitars and have them feign their Super Bowl performance. What numskulls!

The assault has come from every level and has been used for every possible political gain. Heard the one about how Sochi’s changing climate now threatens future Winter Games based on its lack of snow? The only problem with that story is that Sochi is on the same longitude as the South of France, and its average February daytime temperature is 50 degrees. Never mind. It’s just more media fodder to attack the Olympics, its planners, and the Russians who shelled out about $50 billion to stage the Games.

You would think that in the spirit of the Olympics, we would all set aside our “Vanderpump Rules” sniping and stop with the teenage, cool-kid attacks. Nope. Instead, we’ve chosen to blame Bob Costa’s pink eye on the lack of Russian sanitation and opined at how the American team uniforms insult our elitist, Kardashian sense of fashion. Something the Russians might wear but never us, skinny-jean-loving, bright-socks-wearing, tatted-up Americans.

Well, screw it. Maybe I should just join with the critics and dowse the Olympic flame by submitting to American loutishness. On second thought, the Olympics are worth suspending our own criticisms and instead celebrating an event where competition is settled on the playing field instead of the battlefield.

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