Yesterday the Winter Olympics 2014 officially began. While some ceremonies had already taken place, the afternoon’s Opening Ceremony launched the Sochi games, marking the beginning of a fortnight of more than 98 sporting events.
The Sochi Winter Olympics has been in the planning for over 7 years, and in that time the Russian government have spent over $51 billion on the games; that’s the most expensive Olympic games ever – winter or summer – and the total came in at a whopping $39 billion over budget. But does chucking shed loads of cash at a games guarantee it to be a good one?
Well, by the way things have gone so far, it doesn’t look like it. In fact, instead of the glory they were searching for, Russia is looking like the world’s laughing stock, especially if #SochiProblems on Twitter is anything to go by. While the London Olympics had Boris Johnson, and the flying of the wrong flags at medal presentations, Sochi may top it in ridiculousness.
All jokes aside, the Russian authorities have far more important issues on their hands. The hunt for two suicide bombers believed to be in the city, the backlash against the viciously homophobic attitudes of the government, the criticisms of the destruction of Sochi’s stray dogs, an attempted plane hijacking on Friday evening and the widespread reports of corruption continue to haunt this Winter Olympics. We will just have to wait and see how the games will pan out.
But for now, the whole thing seems like a bit of a farce. Here are just some of the weird and embarrassing #SochiProblems that have happened so far, and only one day in.
The Olympic torch mishap
You may have missed this if – like most people – you didn’t follow the torch relay across the 40,000 kilometres it covered. While they managed to successfully launch the flame into space on the Soyuz TMA-11M, it is claimed that the supposedly eternal Olympic flame went out more than 44 times in the relay across Russia. One time, it allegedly had to be re-lit by a plainclothes guard with a cigarette lighter.
Cake in ass, anyone?
Journalists and athletes alike have taken to social media over the last few days to showcase some of the strange food options available in the Sochi Olympic village. Breakfast offered a range of local delicacies including boiled potatoes, bean soup, broccoli, and bee infested honey. Dessert isn’t much better, as one shocked diner realised that “Cake in ass” was on the menu (at only 450 calories!).
For most people, snow at a Winter Olympics would seem an obvious prerequisite, but not for the Russians. Unfortunately Sochi is in the Caucasus, a region just north of Turkey, which is often associated with warmer weather. It is currently about 12°C, almost double the current temperature in Southampton. With minimal snowfall forecast for the next fortnight, they have had to take drastic measures. Having stockpiled 450,000 cubic metres of snow in 2013, it is now being ferried to the slopes, with snow-making machines also being used.
Even the toilets have drawn more attention to Sochi than the sports. Images circulating online show the odd layout of the bathrooms, with double cubicles and a seating area for, erm, spectators? Along with the yellow water which comes out of the taps, the hilarious signage of bathroom etiquette helpfully makes it clear that users should refrain from fishing in the toilets.
The fifth ring
Vladimir Putin looked on in horror as just 10 minutes into the two and a half hour opening ceremony, five gigantic snowflakes descended from the sky, which were then meant to transform into the Olympic rings while suspended in mid-air. Except only four of them did. A rather embarrassing technical glitch led to one remaining as a snow flake, leading various media websites to laugh at the “one that was too scared to come out.”
In an effort to express disgust towards Russia’s legislation against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships,” the games have been teased by many international businesses. While Google subtly added a rainbow backdrop to their Olympic Google Doodle, others haven’t been so discreet. One organisation in Canada poked fun at the homoerotic nature of the luge, while Channel 4 have gone all-out with their rather outlandish campaign, featuring a Russian man dancing in red shorts while singing: “Good luck gays on gay mountain!”