Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sour Grapes On The Russian Olympic Menu

The Russian Olympic Team was extremely upset by the results of the men’s figure skating after the United States’ Evan Lysacek edged out Russia’s Evgeni Plushenko for the gold medal. I have to admit I think that Russia has something of a point: Plushenko apparently skated a more technically difficult routine, yet received lower scores than Lysacek.

But Russia’s took Olympic criticism to a new level with this top-to-bottom ripping of the Winter Games: “Vancouver: Mutton Dressed as Lamb”. In it, the folks at Pravda not only light into VANOC (the Vancouver organizing committee) for the men’s figure skating judging, but also for the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili and the drug testing of a Russian skier while her event was still underway (somehow the failure of the Olympic torch to properly rise during the opening ceremonies avoided their critique). Pravda goes on to (somewhat bizarrely) suggest that Canada’s inability to stage a “successful” Olympic Games stems from their inferiority complex over being the United States “skinny and weakling bro”, and also from still being part of the British Commonwealth. They also infer that the figure skating judging was somehow influenced by Canada competing with Russia for dominance in the Arctic Sea.

All in all, it is a stunning mix of sour grapes and conspiracy theories. At the heart though is likely frustration over the generally poor performance of the Russian Olympic team, which is currently on track for their worst-ever Olympics. That is the last thing the Russians want heading into the next Winter Games, which will be held at Sochi, Russia. Countries always want to have a strong showing at the Games they host – even mild-mannered Canada launched an aggressive training program called “Own the Podium” ahead of the Vancouver Games. Russia’s only other experience as an Olympic host were during the massively-boycotted Moscow Summer Games in 1980, so the upcoming Sochi Games are a source of immense national pride. Of course Russia, traditionally a winter sports powerhouse, wants to have a strong showing for the home crowd – but the 2010 Games have so far been a pretty poor prelude of things to come, and perhaps the frustration is showing in some pretty odd ways.
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