Aaron R. Davis
This is how history works: the Russians unite to overthrow the monarchy that’s keeping them in poverty, and end up almost a hundred years later with a leader who’s keeping them in poverty.
America went to the Sochi Olympics and … wow. Open manhole covers. Unfinished roads. Water that is dangerously unsafe to get in your face. Rampant hijacking of electronic devices. And the hotels! Lord, the hotels! You’ve all read the tweets and seen the photos: stray animals running around, doors without locks, lobbies that aren’t even finished, doorknobs breaking off in peoples’ hands … and holy shit, the bathrooms, with no doors, multiple toilets and in one case, a toilet installed with the seat upside down. Who installs a toilet with the seat upside down? Can there possibly be a Russian laborer out there somewhere who has in fact never seen a toilet before and doesn’t know what a properly installed toilet is supposed to look like? And if there is, why the hell did someone put him to work installing toilets?
Remember when they were describing Sochi as a resort town? What do vacationers come to see? A realistic depiction of the 17th century? A dramatic reenactment of the poverty and lack of resources that followed the October Revolution? Hordes of stray animals? The gay clubs, despite Russia’s anti-gay laws?
Oh, yeah, about those anti-gay laws … If you remember, I wrote a couple of columns a few months ago about how we should boycott these Olympics, and then, later, about how we shouldn’t boycott the Olympics. At first, I felt the US shouldn’t legitimize Putin’s state-sponsored homophobia and his criminal empire, but then, after hearing that Elton John was going to be touring there, realized it really was a great opportunity to throw the gay stuff in his face. Which President Obama did admirably by sending three gay people to Sochi as the US Olympic delegation (and declining to go himself). And we had nothing on Germany’s Olympic athlete outfits, which look like a gay pride flag. Hell, the rest of the world is donating money to Russia gay rights support groups. The whole world is basically telling Putin to go fuck himself by forcing the spotlight onto his ridiculous queer panic.
Seriously, this is how Putin wanted to show off to the rest of the world the mighty 21st Century Russia? As a place where gays can be beaten in the streets with police support, where stray animals are euthanized and your hotel might be finished sometime during the actual Olympics? At least under communism the Russian leaders paid hypocritical lip service to the plight of the workers. Now, they just ship in hundreds of migrant workers, beat them when they complain about getting less than half their promised pay (and, according to some reports, sexually assault them and force them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit) and then round them up and deport them. And that’s when they’re not just quietly seizing homes and expanding their borders. Putin is using the Olympics to expand Russia’s borders. Yeah, that’s in the spirit of whatever the hell the Olympics are supposed to be about.
Oh, right: money. It’s about money. Because this is the most expensive Olympics in human history. $51 billion for 98 events and venues that are unfinished or barely held together. And $39 billion of that are just cost overruns, because of the sweetheart deals independent contractors (and childhood friends of Putin) are getting to not have hotels finished by the time they’re needed. We could go to Mars over 20 times for that much money. We could hold the Olympics on Mars for that much money! And Mars has polar caps, so … oh, but the polar caps are dry ice without any H2. Well, I guess we could get some H2 to take to Mars to hopefully use the H2 as a catalyst to create water. Hell, we could get the H2 from Jupiter because that would still be cheaper than the fucking Sochi Olympics!
And barely any of that money comes from the private sector; the taxpayers in Russia are picking up 96.5 percent of the tab on this one. Even Lex Luthor is looking at that and thinking, “Whoa, that seems unconscionably greedy.” That is corruption on such a wide scale that it would be funny if it weren’t so outrageous. They’re not even bothering to hide it.
Oh, and the cherry on top of this whole joke is that there are a number of legitimate terror threats looming over the whole thing. The train you have to take to Sochi (because there’s no airport at this resort town) takes you right by the Caucasus Mountains, where Circassians are demonstrating against Russia because it’s the 150th anniversary of a genocide performed there by the Russians. Nothing says Olympic spirit like being herded into your unfinished hotel so you can perform in a spackled-together stadium that cost the taxpayers billions. You could get a gold medal in whatever specific form of sliding you practice, or you could get attacked by terrorists.
Or Vladimir Putin might just hold all of the delegates and athletes hostage until he gets the ransom he wants. I mean, at this point, would that even surprise anyone?
Aaron R. Davis lives in a cave at the bottom of the ocean with his eyes shut tight and his fingers in his ears. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.