This year, though, I have mixed feelings. I love that it’s in Russia and that my children get a glimpse of the beauty of Russia when they watch. There is so much to love about the country of Russia. But, on the other hand, this will be all that some Americans ever know about Russia. That, and maybe a few “in Soviet Russia…” jokes. Having all eyes on Russia, but paying attention to something completely unrelated to the important issues leaves a sour taste in my mouth.
Here’s my abbreviated list of why I can’t just enjoy these Olympics:
- You’re probably aware of #sochiproblems, like unsafe tap water, not being able to flush TP, or a hotel without a lobby. Now, take a few minutes to read about orphan problems. Same country, no coverage. Dilapidated and unsanitary living conditions, which are the reality of the tiniest, precious human beings.
- Maybe you’ve heard that you can adopt one of the dogs roaming the Russian streets. You know who you can’t adopt (unless you are from Italy or a former Soviet country)? One of the 650,000 Russian orphans. Many of these children bonded with American parents who were unable to bring them home due to the Russian adoption ban.
- While the Olympics might make it seem like all of the countries can play nice, Ukraine’s future still hangs in the balance between Russia and the European Union and the protests in Ukraine continue. We’ll see how Putin treats Ukraine when the Olympics are over.
- Apart from #sochiproblems, the Olympic facilities look beautiful, but please, let’s not think about the people who built them. Despite the $51 billion dollar price tag, those who worked on the facilities were lucky to get paid at all.
- Despite Russia’s presentation of itself as a progressive, successful country, their citizens still lack basic freedoms, such as the freedom of speech, such as banning gay “propaganda” or the freedom of the press, such as the creation of “Russia Today” and the shutting down of Ria Novosti.
It hardly seems right to point a finger at Russia while my own country is admittedly far from perfect, but I feel that it’s important to understand what’s really wrong in Russia, beyond their lack of Chobani yogurt and shower curtains. So, while you’re enjoying the Sochi games, please take a few minutes to remember those who are neglected, those who are bullied and those who have been exploited in the same beautiful country.