With the Sochi 2014 Olympics just days from starting the media is abuzz over Sochi’s inadequate accommodations, arrests, wild dogs killing and Russia’s homophobic and oppressive laws. The spotlight and pressure on Sochi, a small resort city in Russia has never been bigger and likely never will. The primarily negative media attention and scrutiny on Olympic host cities and countries prior othe the Olympics is unmatched. The world is examining Sochi with a microscope, leaving no non existent manhole, stray dog, nor dual toilet unturned. It’s likely a more thorough and widespread examination of Sochi than would ever be commissioned or conducted by a development, government, economic or real estate agency. And with Sochi putting in an Olympic bid and securing and agreeing to host the Olympics, it’s entirely warranted.
The Olympics have always been about competition and host cities have never failed to get in the spirit. Host cities have promised and usually delivered on bigger, more impressive venues and the most grandiose opening ceremonies. The public seems to have reached its maximum expectations for both insanely large sporting facilities that will never be used again and one time pyrotechnic 4D musical cultural circus extravaganzas and have now taken a broader humanitarian scope to examine and evaluate host cities. People are now looking at things like environmentalism, human rights, homeless and the economic situation to evaluate the Olympic cities. No longer is the Olympic facade and tourist commercial version of a city good enough for people, they want cities to be frontrunners in green energy, good governance, ending poverty and upholding human rights. Is this unrealistic? Most definitely but it’s the Olympics, where athletes are expected to push the boundaries of sport and their bodies to achieve new records. And despite multiple studies that show the human body may have reached it’s maximum, records continue to be broken. Just as athletes work meticulously for years to make and perform the best at the Olympics, I expect cities that apply and are chosen to host the Games to apply themselves similarly.
In the end I don’t think we are asking host cities for perfection, just for them to be better and to strive to be the best in these regards. Hopefully while we do this we are examining our home cities and countries and even our own actions with the same thoroughness. After all while it might be easy to see a country’s mistakes from far away, it’s easier to enact change where you live.