In 21st Century Russia, Olympic Committee Trolls You! (And Other Sochi 2014 News)

We’re in the final week of the Sochi Winter Olympics and I haven’t posted about the games this month at all. This is a travesty. Back in 2012, I made several posts about the Summer Olympics in London, so I’m pretty far behind. This year, instead of making individual posts on every interesting article I found, I thought it would be better to compile a selection for you to browse. I’ll probably make another post once the Olympics are over with additional articles, but for now, take a gander at these stories.

1.) The organizing committee for the 2014 Winter Olympics asked the Russian public to vote for the mascots for the games in Sochi. A snow hare, a snow leopard, and a polar bear were ultimately chosen, but the true leader of the votes was a goofy blue frog known as the Zoich. 2014 looks a lot like ZOIЧ in the Cyrillic alphabet, which is how this frog ended up getting its name (Ч makes a sound similar to ch). The Zoich seemed to represent rebellion and protest and people were pushing for the Zoich to win in order to make a mockery of the government and these games. After the official mascots were decided, it was eventually revealed that the Olympic committee actually had the rights to the Zoich and that the design had been commissioned by the committee in some kind of guerilla marketing scheme. What a sneaky (and begrudgingly brilliant) use of the internet.


Read More: Slate – The Amazing Story of Zoich, the Futurama-Themed Faux-Viral Sochi Mascot That Wasn’t

2.) Viktor Ahn is a short track speed skater who won three gold medals in the 2006 Turin games. Look up records from those games and you won’t find the name Viktor anywhere. That’s because he was still competing for South Korea under the name Ahn Hyun-Soo. Now, Viktor competes for the Russian Olympic team with a name he chose to signify “victory”. He had moved to Russia after he felt like he didn’t have the support of the South Korean speed skating federation and subsequently became a citizen. So far, he has already won a bronze in the 1500 meter and a gold in the 1000 meter. None of the South Korean men have gotten on the podium yet for speed skating in these games.

Read More: Deadspin – So, Why Is There A Korean Guy On Russia’s Speed Skating Team?

3.) Speaking of short track speed skating and the power of the internet, US Olympian Emily Scott was able to find her way to Sochi with the help of more than 700 donors on the website USA Today reports that this is the first Olympics where athletes have made widespread use of crowd-funding sites to help get them to the games. The use of these sites will likely continue to grow larger in the future.


Read More: USA Today – U.S. speedskater’s dream supported by crowdfunding fans

4.) People from all over the world are traveling to Sochi for the Winter Olympics and Russian hotel managers and staff are hoping to shake off stereotypes of being cold and unfriendly by taking workshops in hospitality, which include smiling and making eye contact. This reminds me of when I was riding the subway to Beijing’s Olympic Green. There was an old sign telling riders to smile. Mega-events are all about appearances.

Read More: Reuters – Smile! Russians learn hospitality before Sochi Games

5.) Speaking of appearances, if you watched the Sochi opening ceremony, you might remember those five giant snowflakes transforming into the Olympic rings. Well, four giant snowflakes transforming into four of the Olympic rings. That’s not what Russian state TV viewers saw. Instead, the station cut to pre-recorded footage from the rehearsals. There’s already t-shirts depicting the event because, well, of course there are.


Read More: Time – Russian TV Covers Up Opening Ceremony Ring Malfunction

6.) This one seems kind of unbelievable, but if Time is reporting it, then I am just assuming that it’s true. Russian teachers were asked to reduce the homework loads on students so that they could watch the Sochi games and get all up in the hype. These games have produced a lot of national pride and the government wants to capitalize on that as much as it can by instilling it in the nation’s youth.

Read More: Time – Russia Cancels Homework So Kids Can Watch the Olympics

Like I said, look out for another follow-up post with several more articles in the future. Until then, enjoy this video of Sochi’s polar bear mascot trying to fit inside a car. You can tell how frustrated he is, but the costume just makes it so adorable.


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