The 2014 Winter Olympics Begin Tonight
We’re taking a break from American politics today to bring you all you need to get started for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The Games formally begin today, with the opening ceremonies airing in the US tonight (on tape-delay) and the events going until February 23rd.
1. The Best Sports Stories To Watch: Who are the front-runners expected to dominate their events? Who are the underdogs that have the potential to play spoiler? Did you know there are three sisters competing together and against each other in the same event? Billy Flanagan has all these questions and more answered in his rundown of the best sports stories to watch this year. We’re particularly excited to see Cool Runnings, Volume 2.
2. How To Watch The Opening Ceremonies: Alyssa Rosenberg details what you can expect to see during the opening ceremonies, and analyzes the cultural context though which to interpret them. She also goes back in time to remember some of the moments of past opening ceremonies (who could forget when James Bond and Queen Elizabeth parachuted out of an airplane together in London in 2012?)
3. Problems With The Facilities: The Sochi Olympics are already more expensive than every other Winter Olympics combined. And, as Esther Y. Lee reports, that is after migrant abuse and wage theft from those contracted to transform the small resort town into a lavish winter sports hub. But there is still startling evidence that the city is not ready for the games to begin. Upon arriving to Sochi, many journalists and observers began tweeting out photographs of hotels with stray dogs, brown water, bugs, and no light bulbs. The course for one snowboarding event is being called “unnecessarily dangerous,” and Shaun White, a leading American competitor, has withdrawn from the event. It’s hard to disprove a photograph, but Russian officials have defended against these accusations — by citing surveillance footage inside hotel showers. So much for shoring up the confidence of foreigners…
4. How Will LGBT Protests Affect Putin’s Russia? Much has already been made of Russia’s extreme intolerance of gay and lesbian individuals. The Google homepage has even taken a stand:
LGBT Advocates have been promising protests during the games, and those are likely to get worldwide coverage. But will Russia respond? The United Nations has formally condemned Russia’s anti-gay laws and has explicitly stated it “oppose[s] the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions” faced by LGBT people there. Perhaps more importantly, will the country change its policies in the future? Travis Waldron discusses these issues.
5. Terrorism. Of course, everyone is hoping for a safe Olympics, free of any violence or terrorist acts. News reports today confirmed that a Ukrainian flight was hijacked (when the opening ceremonies were live) by a passenger claiming to have a bomb, but it landed safely in Istanbul. Obama has assured the safety of Americans in Sochi, but the issue is still something that is causing some nervousness. Mother Jones has a good explainer on why.