Sochi, The Feel-Bad Games

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One would be hard-pressed to think of another Olympic Games that was getting as much negative press as opening day approached.

Just last week, Lady Gaga, political lightning rod that she is, suggested that the Sochi Games be boycotted over Russia’s anti-gay laws. This weekend, German President Joachim Gauck (it’s a ceremonial role mostly – Chancellor Angela Merkel does the heavy lifting) announced his boycott of the Games over Russia’s human rights record and their treatment of political opponents.

First Gaga, now Gauck. What’s gagoing on here?

Actually Gaga is not the first celebrity to speak up. Earlier this year, Lindsey Graham, US Senator and part-time male lesbian, suggested a boycott over Russia’s harbouring of NSA rascal Edward Snowden as well as their support of Syria’s Assad. British comedian Stephen Fry then wrote a sharply-worded open letter to the International Olympic Committee and British PM David Cameron, raising comparisons to Hitler and the need to also go the boycott route.

While this mixed bag of B-level boycott bleaters may not make a dent in the actual Games once they get underway, they are clearly dominating the headlines these days.

Instead of having articles written about some shiny new venues or the heroic efforts of the athletes heading into competition, these Games are so far being associated with less-PR-friendly words like spying, Hitler, anti-gay, and civil war.

Sochi’s organizers are going to need to pull off a public relations’ quadruple salchow to turn things around in the next two months.

 

Take it for Granite

Since the early theme of this blog has us highlighting the lack of highlights going into Sochi, it seems fitting that we write a piece on the colossally boring “sport” of curling (apologies to Jarrod).

This little nugget comes to us courtesy of the New York Times. This article tells of the obscure Scottish island of Ailsa Craig, where nothing much goes on except that it holds a distinctive granite that makes up many of the world’s curling stones, including those slated for Sochi.

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This means some curling nerd back in the day stumbled across this island and thought: ‘Hmm, what could we do with this majestic water-resistant microgranite, taken from this ancient volcanic husk sitting majestically amidst the waters of the Firth of Clyde?Hang on a thecond…let’s use it for curling’!

So when you’re gathered amongst friends during the Olympics and only curling is on TV (you’re waiting for a real sport to get started, most likely), you can drop this little nugget of trivia just to liven up the proceedings a little.

Irony Curtain

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The photo above is taken from the home page of the official Sochi 2014 website. What do you think – Da or Nah?

On one hand, the ironic – or is it? – double guns move that the guy is pulling is a beauty. The last time that was done un-ironically was when the Fonz did it.

And the hockey hair, straight from Salon Jagr – it too seems like it could be a gag, though I don’t think so.

Like Putin majestically bare-chested astride a horse, both images leave the visitor wondering what the true message is that the Russians are trying to get across. Is the joke on them, or on us?

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Start ‘Er Up

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So Sochi is just around the corner. Just like it would appear to a Jamaican bobsledder though, that corner seems really far away and tricky to navigate.

A word to the PR people in Russia – forget the anti-gay stuff (we’ll get to that later) – you need to generate some better buzz for the games. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Sochi Olympic Committee promoted ‘100 days to go’ until the Games, which kick off February 7th.

A couple of days later, Russian skier Raisa Smetantina – yes, THE Raisa Smetantina – lit the Olympic cauldron.

Both events went anti-viral.

Buzz? At the moment, Miley Cyrus generates more buzz farting in her sleep (a butch oven?) than the Sochi games do. Snooki is more happening than Sochi. Toronto’s mayor Rob Ford – speaking of being buzzed – has a higher Q rating than a global, once-every-four-year event which involves, like, a ton of countries.

Is the public and media apathy just a way of giving the cold shoulder to the country, in retaliation for Russia’s bizarre state-sponsored anti-homosexual stance? Or is it the Winter Games in general, with a perennially lower profile than its big sister Summer?

In any case, the collective yawn so far is not a great sign for the Russkies, nor for the athletes who have been training for years just to have a shot at Olympic glory and possible endorsement riches.

However! All is not lost. We here at the fiveringcircus  – Jarrod Banadyga, the original five-ringer, and some of his hand-picked guest bloggers – are avid armchair Olympians, and we’ll do our part to help get Sochi sorted. We’ll see if we can sex it up a little, laugh it up a lot, and in general get some good ol’ glasnost going.