Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

21 February 2014

After two weeks of competition, another Winter Olympics is drawing to a close in Sochi. As with every Games there were some memorable sporting moments, from a trio of US snowboarders sweeping the podium to the Russian ice hockey team crashing out in the quarter final (good news for a Canadian like me).

By and large the Sochi Olympics were a success. I spoke to the chef de mission for team New Zealand, Pete Wardell, who told me it has been a fantastic Games. And his message to all the naysayers who said they couldn’t do it? They’ve been doing it in spades.

Before the start of the Games the world obsessed over a potential terrorist attack. The international media aired non-stop footage of Russian soldiers conducting anti-terrorism operations and manning heavily armed checkpoints. But, luckily, nothing happened. The Games were safe and the athletes and spectators were fine.

There were also protests by the gay and lesbian community over controversial new laws. But despite concerns that the LGBT community would be targeted, nothing happened. Instead we saw one of the most homoerotic opening ceremonies in recent memory, a openly gay athlete winning gold in the speed skating and participation rates on gay-dating apps in Sochi sky rocketing.

I remember covering the 2012 Summer Olympics for another news organisation and before the festivities began, the only thing anyone was talking about was the despair that was about to rain down upon London. There would be traffic chaos across the capital, the Tube system wouldn’t be able to cope and all we would see is rain. Talk about nervous energy. But despite all the doomsayers, the London Olympics were an incredible success. There was little to no traffic turmoil, the Underground held up admirably and the weather – oh, the weather was fantastic.

It seems to be an age-old tradition with the Olympics that before every single Games we have to think the worst; that anything that could go wrong will probably go wrong. In Athens, the city wouldn’t be ready; in Beijing the smog would be unbearable; and in Vancouver there would be no Olympic spirit in a big city. Little did they know where the latter is concerned: Canadians turned on the Olympic charm unlike any host in recent memory.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t turn a critical eye on those who host the Olympics but remember that this is a sporting event for the world. There would be no point in only holding the Games in places such as Switzerland or Norway because it’s not just for wealthy host countries in the western world.

So, with Sochi drawing to a close, let’s switch our attention to Rio and be confident that, come 2016, they’ll be able to pull it off.

Phil Han is a presenter and producer for Monocle 24.

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