White Elephants

I’m not going to lie to you—I did not watch the Sochi Olympics. I caught a glimpse here and there and because I’m not completely out of touch I followed @SochiProblems on Twitter (pro tip: don’t bother. It’s since become @CanuckProblems and they are just. not. funny. anymore) but that’s about it.

Maybe it’s because this is the longest winter in the history of winter and I don’t care to be reminded of that by watching a bunch of Gortex-clad athletes slide down various mountains. Don’t get me wrong; I could not do that. More power to them. But I generally don’t care for the Olympics1 and I think this NPR article helped me put my finger on exactly why.

In the daytime, the Olympic village is a large, open expanse of pavement, enclosing giant venues that will need to be used somehow if Russia’s $51 billion investment — the most in Olympics history — is to pay off. The idea sold by the Russian Olympic organizers and Putin himself was that Sochi would continue to benefit from the investments as a year-round resort city, but will it?

If previous games any are guide, the prospects aren’t great.

So Russia spent $50 billion, some athletes did some cool stuff, and now…what? It all just seems so wasteful in the end.

“According to our modest calculations, it will cost 80 billion rubles per year ($2.26 billion) to maintain these items,” Kimayev says. “The city won’t be able to manage it. The region won’t manage it, either. Only the federal government can afford that. So there’s a question: Can Sochi be a federal resort?”

Maybe they’ll repurpose some of the newly built structures like London has done, or as the article mentions, transport some of them to other places in Russia (which…what?), but it seems far more likely that it will mostly fall into disrepair. So basically all they’ve done is create yet another set for the horror movies in my nightmares. Truly, there is something chilling about Olympic Village remnants, something NPR has also chronicled here.

With my home city of Boston bidding for the 2024 games (lol, amirite?), I’m hoping Sochi will set a precedent for doing something really cool with all the new construction. Because, my nightmares notwithstanding, we simply don’t have the SPACE for that nonsense.

1. I lied, I love swimming and gymnastics in the Summer games but let’s be real, that has more to do with really fit men in really tiny outfits than it does with like, The Spectacle of Sport or whatever. ?

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