Is Early Sochi Criticism Par For The Course?
We've seen the headlines:
Criticism Mounts ... With Less Than 6 Months To Go
If you click on these links, you'll find that they are from the Olympics in Vancouver, Beijing and Torino, respectively. It just goes to show that Sochi isn't alone in the criticism it has received from the world's media ahead of the games.
Of course, in Sochi the headlines have centered on human rights — and heavily focused on gay rights — as well as animal rights issues, the lack of preparation and security concerns. But some past Olympic Games, which were labeled successful, have met with some of the same types of criticism.
Here are some of the recent Winter Games and the headlines they drew:
In a story headlined, " Vancouver Games Continue Downhill Slide From Disaster To Calamity," the Guardian called the 2010 Winter Olympics the "worst games ever." Here's more:
"It is hard to believe anything will surpass the organisational chaos and naked commercial greed of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta or the financial disaster of the 1976 Games, which bankrupted Montreal, yet with every passing day the sense of drift and nervousness about the Vancouver Games grows ever more noticeable."
There were news reports about bad weather, the transportation system, the electrical wiring and the tragic death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili during a training run.
The initial response at the news that the Italian city would host the games was similar to that of Sochi: Where?
As NBC News reported at the time:
"Torino is second-tier industrial city at the foot of the Alps — well off the tourist trail, which even hometown automaker Fiat has been gradually abandoning. It is a town Hannibal once leveled. It's smog-covered skyline is the color of a bad cold. Landing the Olympics was a surprise chance at rebirth."
And, The New York Times reported, problems before the games – real or perceived – gave way to appreciation at the end.
"Initially, organizers were also worried about transportation to the far-flung mountain sites — many of which are connected by one two-lane road full of hairpin turns — but aside from a few glitches in the system, transportation was not a major issue," the newspaper reported at the time. "The weather eventually turned wintry in the mountains after months of little snow."
Salt Lake City, 2002
These, of course, were Mitt Romney's games. But before he took over, the games were mired in the worst (that we know of) corruption scandal ever involving the Olympics. As The Times noted:
"A series of revelations about the scandal in late 1998 and in early 1999 severely damaged the Olympic movement and the credibility of the committee, and threatened to topple the committee's president, Juan Antonio Samaranch."
The games are now remembered for their remarkable turnaround.
The hosts of Summer Olympics past also have been plagued with image problems: Remember the headlines from Athens (preparedness), Beijing (pollution, himan rights) and London (gridlock)?
Rio, which hosts the games in 2016, is already facing criticism. Apparently, the open season on the Olympics start years in advance.
The push against Russia's policies toward the gay community has been seen in wide-ranging reactions from the choice for the U.S. delegation to Soch to the Google doodle on Friday, the day of the opening ceremonies. It remains to be seen whether Sochi can put the criticism behind it as the nation gets deeper into the games.
Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.