The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics began about a week ago and are, for me at least, the first social media Olympics. Days before the Sochi Olympics started, I noticed @SochiProblems and #SochiProblems trending on Twitter and other Sochi problems popping up all over the internet. The majority of these were from Western reporters – the United States – and Americans traveling to Sochi. Complaints about the Sochi problems ranged from poor English skills and translations to less than expected hotel accommodations.
I followed along as these problems continued to stockpile. At first, they didn’t really bother me too much, but as the Olympics began major media outlets started to report on the problems, and it really got to me. I understand expecting a certain level of accommodations while attending the Olympics, but you are going to a different county and cannot expect American standards.
Yes, the Olympics are an international event that should have a higher level of accommodations than a cheap hostel you book on a backpacking trip. It is unfair to expect every hotel in Sochi to be an Embassy Inn & Suites. Hotels that were not ready in time with missing shower curtains, blinds, and doors are an understandable complaint or problem.
However, do not call it a problem when this so-called problem is simply the way things are done in a different culture. Toilets that don’t flush toilet paper, incorrect English translations, and hotels not having a traditional American lobby are NOT problems. These are just the differences that Russia has from the United States.
The locals who live in these parts of Russia have to “deal” with this on a daily basis. This is just the way they live. You – yes, you American correspondents and reporters – should not complain about how Sochi is not what you expected, but rather appreciate it for what it is.
Maybe there are not televisions in the typical hotel room or toilets don’t normally flush toilet paper. These conditions would probably be just about the same if you were traveling there on a trip without the Olympics going on. You should be appreciating the differences in cultures and way of life – understanding the differences and respecting them.
No one in this world lives in the exact same way. Being able to accept and respect the differences is what I believe the world needs more of. This is why the Sochi Problems irked me so much. I understand highlighting some funny differences, but I felt as though the problems in Sochi were being described more as complaints and extreme inconveniences on those traveling to Sochi. While I am by no means the most well-traveled person in the world, I do enjoy traveling, which most importantly includes learning about, appreciating, understanding, and respecting other cultures.
These American reporters and tourists should appreciate the fact that they get to travel to Sochi, Russia, and the Olympics and not get too caught up on how everything is not quite as they expected. I do not want to sound pompous or high and mighty, but realize that I may be coming off that way. I just get frustrated when I hear people complaining about things and not looking at the bright side of things. Sure you cannot flush toilet paper, but be happy you’re at the Olympics and visiting a foreign country.
Maybe Russia should have done a better job preparing for the Olympics, and they are to blame. Maybe the International Olympic Committee is to blame to for awarding the 2014 winter Olympics to Sochi when they knew the games might not be up to other countries standards. The blame can go ’round and ’round, but instead of looking for blame or who to complain about we should simply be trying to appreciate the differences and respect the way others live. We are all human, and we are all in this thing we call life together.