American Olympic coverage misses mark

Story by The Baker Orange Editorial Board

As student journalists, members of the Baker Orange Editorial Board are embarrassed by the coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

On one hand, the living situations aren’t ideal in Sochi, Russia. But on the other, it’s ridiculous how much journalists have complained about the dirty water and lobby-less hotels.

The Twitter account, @SochiProblems has 341,000 followers, while the official account for the Sochi Winter Olympics has only 35,700 followers. @SochiProblems started a wildfire of tweets about #SochiProblems that ranged anywhere from stray dogs to cats falling from the ceiling.

These issues should be signs of how life actually is for many Russian people. These two weeks in “dirty” and “outrageous” Sochi for both journalists and Olympians will be over soon enough, but Russians have to continue living in these conditions.

The coverage of the Winter Olympics challenges the true purpose behind the games. The Olympics started as a way to honor gods with athleticism, but has changed into a way of uniting athletes and the countries they represent.

People are concerned over the pettiest of things, saying Russia isn’t doing a good job of hosting the Olympics, and some are even boycotting the Olympics because of Putin’s anti-gay policies. But is that the best strategy?

If Americans boycotted every Olympics that were held in a place that didn’t mesh with their beliefs, would there be any Olympics to watch?

Some Russians aren’t in favor of the Olympics, either. The Russian government spent millions of tax dollars to prepare Sochi for these games when that money could be used to fix less than ideal living conditions.

The Human Rights Watch did a study of the exploitation of the workers who built the Sochi stadiums. One man said, “People work, they don’t get paid, and leave. Then a bus comes and unloads a fresh group of workers to repeat the cycle.” More than 70,000 workers went through this experience to create these games that many Americans are criticizing.

Maybe journalists should be talking about the horrible conditions in Sochi as a way of bringing the situation to light. Of course, hotel rooms weren’t fully finished and furnished – their workers were tired from 12-hour shifts, only compensated with empty promises of pay. Some reported to the Human Rights Watch that they received a $1.60-$2.80 an hour for wage. There is a fine line between criticism and downright ridicule, and some media coverage is teetering on that fine line.

That’s the beauty of media – it gives us a chance to make a change by talking about the issues. But when media coverage is questionable, it makes it less of a cultural shock to people and more of a reason to create yet another hashtag.