Oh Sochi, this doesn’t look good

rseibel@macon.comFebruary 6, 2014 

Sochi Olympics Cross Country Men

A cross-country skier passes by the shadows of the Olympic rings prior to the 2014 Winter Olympics, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)


Many Americans have considered taking a leisurely trip to the Olympics.

For some, the idea is a bucket list thing. For others, it’s the chance to vacation in a foreign land while enjoying watching in person something they have seen on television many times before.

For the lucky, it’s the chance to go support a friend, neighbor or relative competing for gold.

Or, for a select few, maybe they can even compete themselves.

If the reports coming out of Sochi about living conditions are correct, however, then this edition of the Winter Olympics is best viewed from home.

The reports from Sochi, widespread on Twitter and through other media outlets, have described a logistical nightmare. Water out of the tap that’s unsafe to drink or use. Water that’s not even working to begin with. The lack of shower curtains, pillows or even doors that lock in hotels.

Sure, there are going to be misfires at any Olympics. But the tales coming out of Sochi underline the importance of proper logistics and urban planning.

Things might even be so woeful that the Atlanta Olympics -- whose problems largely had to do with transportation misconnects -- just might look downright pristine and efficient in comparison.

All of this goes back to a desire by international sports organizations like the International Olympic Committee to take major sporting events to new locations. Yes, taking the Olympics and World Cup to new locations brings needed improvements in infrastructure, but a lot of times those developments fall short of what is needed. It’s more than a “Field of Dreams” effort in which people will just flock to stadiums that are built. There are a lot of moving pieces involved, and for a major sporting event to be put on successfully, all of those pieces need to be working harmoniously.

The “put them where they haven’t been” movement started in 2010 with the World Cup in South Africa. That event largely worked out well. Games were played without a hitch, and the one thing remembered from the event was the presence of the vuvuzela horns that gave that World Cup its soundtrack.

Sochi, however, is having real problems. And things haven’t looked good so far for this summer’s World Cup or the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Looking ahead, the 2018 Winter Olympics are slated for Pyeongchang, a South Korean city that will be hosting its first major worldwide competition (although South Korea has hosted a Summer Olympics and co-hosted a World Cup). And the 2018 World Cup? Right back in Russia, with Sochi providing one of the host stadiums.

The 2020 Summer Olympics mark a return to the traditional host city circuit as Tokyo will step into the spotlight. But the finalists for the 2022 Winter Olympics include three countries that haven’t hosted major world competition before (Poland, Ukraine and Kazakhstan) to go along with Beijing and Oslo, Norway.

And let’s not even get started on FIFA’s choice of the Middle Eastern country of Qatar for the 2022 World Cup.

The lesson from all of this is that logistics and planning matter. A government or organizing committee that skimps on those areas does so at its peril.

We’re seeing that right now.

Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or rseibel@macon.com

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