Normally, the Olympics, with their feel good pageantry, would provide valuable respite from seasonal ennui. But this year, the Olympics are just making things worse.
Russia's apparent ineptitude in pulling off a non-harrowing Winter Games would normally leave me howling with laughter, like the kind of howling laughter I laughed every day when I was living in Athens, Greece during the run up to the 2004 Summer Games. I'll never forget where I was when I read that construction workers who were supposed to be building the Olympic Stadium were instead going on strike because they were upset about a 5.5-hour workday without a built in afternoon naptime. Or the time a big news report stateside revealed that absolutely nothing had been done to prepare, and whoever was running things in Athens responded by ripping up all of the sidewalks in Kolonaki and installing new, shittier sidewalks that looked like yellow Lego bricks. Or how Athens in August is like living inside an armpit that sweats diesel fumes. Bureaucrats stressing the fuck out over sports is funny, almost always.
Every Olympics produces its own comedic organizational clusterfuck in their run up, and this year's Sochi games promised to be no exception. Russia, the land of dashcams and tacky billionaires and Vladimir Putin's chesty scowl, was a land of rueful promise. But everything that's gone wrong, and everything that promises to go wrong, hasn't been funny at all this time. It's just combined with terrible weather-induced cabin fever to induce a perfect storm of hopelessness that may even morph into existential crisis. I'm about to Debbie Downer the shit out of these Games, and it's not going to be fun.
The irony of a country with homophobic leadership that bans "gay propaganda" hosting the world's premiere competition of male figure skating, the "world's gayest sport," promised to a satisfying bit of poetic justice. No gay propaganda here, says a stone-faced Putin clapping demurely at a man rocking the hell out of a purple spandex bodysuit while skillfully dancing on skates. It would have been great. Think of the gifs.
But then, this video, of the sort of thing that gay people who aren't elite global athletes face, zaps all of the ironic humor from the aforementioned theoretical and transforms it into something enraging. It's hard to laugh when you can't pretend that awful shit isn't happening.
Despite travel warnings, gobs of journalists have ventured to Sochi and found accommodations to be... lacking. Even the toilets are fucked up. Athletes and journalists have shared images of double toilets, audience toilets, and toilets with the lids installed backwards to social media, and everyone's having a laugh.
But when I think of an athlete winning a gold medal, only to return to his room to throw their poo paper away in a small bin next to their commode, I don't find laughter. I feel despair. And then I think — this is Russia rolling out the fancy shit (no pun intended). Imagine the conditions under which non-foreign non-journalists live in Russia when the country isn't trying to show off on the international stage. That country is rife with human rights abuses of its own citizens, so while we're all laughing at toilets, I'll be over here in a corner, holding my knees and rocking while pondering the horror of everyday existence for many Russian citizens.
Go For The Goldendoodle
Athens locals were very protective of the self-tamed strays that populate the city. They're fed, watered, protected. They'll wait outside of bars and clubs for people to leave and walk you home, like furry, mangy bodyguards (when you get back to your apartment, it's customary to offer the dogs a scrap of food as thanks. That's just Athenian dog etiquette). They wait for pedestrian walk signals at intersections. They don't jump on you. They're great. It's a major faux pas to fuck with them, and people got super mad when some of them turned up dead of poisoning before the 2004 Games.
Sochi's got a stray issue, too, but some of it is self-induced. Some of the dogs that now wander the streets don't have places to live because the Olympic organizing committee forced their owners to clear out of their homes to make way for the Games. And now, tame, mostly-harmless pups are being rounded up and killed, in the spirit of global unity and competition or something. A billionaire has stepped in to try to save them, but who knows how many were rounded up before they could be saved.
These games are run by fucking assholes! Holy shit!
And speaking of assholes,
... and Heroin
Turns out, there's a reason the Olympic committee agreed to give the Winter Games to a tropical resort city about 250 miles from one of the least politically stable regions in the world. A heroin kingpin strongly encouraged them to.
One of the architects of the Sochi games, according to ABC, was Russian "businessman" Gafur Rakhimov, who associates describe as a terrifying monster and one of the biggest players in the heroin game. And it's not like this stuff is a secret, either.
[Rakhimov] was banned from attending the Olympic games in Australia in 2000 because of his alleged criminal ties.
In 2012, U.S. Treasury officials sought to freeze Rakhimov's bank accounts around the world, describing him in public documents as a "key member" of a huge Russian-Asian criminal syndicate called the Brothers' Circle.
"He has operated major international drug syndicates involving the trafficking of heroin," the Treasury statement said.
Former ambassador Murray said the heroin from Rakhimov's network moves through Central Asia to St. Petersburg, Russia and then on to Europe and the United Kingdom.
Despite the criminal allegations and indictment, Rakhimov continues to serve as a vice president of the Olympic Council of Asia, a group of nations that are members of the International Olympic Committee.
Lovely. Let's award him the Gold in the brand new Profiting Off Of Misery And Harm Competition.
I'm beginning to suspect that the Olympics are to international sports what Disney World is to environmentalism and multiculturalism. The Games have been corrupt for as long as I can remember — remember what the Salt Lake City committee did to secure its bid? — but between the puppy murder, gangster placating, gay bashing, and lack of basic amenities for its own citizens, at this point, I'm about ready to break up with the Games entirely. NBC's idiotic decision to air everything with a tape delay doesn't bolster its case for rewarding them with ratings, either — although, if this were a different year, Lauer trying to gloss over all the institutional homophobia with relentless, quixotic positivity might be somewhat entertaining.
At least we'll always have Norway's curling uniforms.
Image via Getty.