Sochi 2014 Link Roundup: We’re Up All Night to Get Lucky

That's gonna leave a mark in your mind, isn't it?

That’s gonna leave a mark in your mind, isn’t it?

The problem with the Olympics is for the most part, I’m too busy watching the Olympics to write about the Olympics. So I’ve been reading and watching at the same time. As I write this, some Canadian my age is bringing it on television.

Did you read all those tweets from journalists about the dire conditions of their housing in Sochi? Well according to Russian bathroom cameras, it’s not that bad. Be mindful of the #SochiProblems hashtag, though — it’s both undependable and wrought with privilege. At first I figured it was the Sochi Organizing Committee’s problem, not prioritizing media housing before I realized it was likely they didn’t care to impress the American media anyway.

Please tell me you watched the Opening Ceremony! I was disappointed this clip of the Russian police choir singing Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” wasn’t part of it, but Anne Helen Peterson brought up a good point:

While there was some dramatic irony present with the official Sochi gloves having rainbow fingers, this article from GQ on what it’s like to be gay in Russia is a sobering reminder of what has been the loudest contention with these Games.

NBC edited out way more than they needed to, and the commentators were frustratingly biased.

But the Parade of Nations were a delight as always BRINGING IT with the fashionable clothing and drop dead gorgeous athletes. The Chinese President came, while our American president abstained, even if he spoke to Bob Costas minutes before the Opening Ceremony premiered.

Of course, the Olympic athletes have been bringing it! Loved how Jamie Anderson and Sage Kotsenburg are representing the USA after winning gold in slopestyle — which is an Olympic event for the first time ever. Especially since Sage decided to try a technique he’d never done before seconds before his last race.

I also found out Curling is a much harder sport than it lookshow Olympians get their intense motivation, and got down about how Indian athletes can’t play under their country’s flag.

Finally, I’m announcing my event, “MEDAL-HEADS: A DAY AT THE OLYMPICS.” If you’re anywhere near Brooklyn this Sunday, come to Videology to watch some Olympics, play Olympics trivia (if you’ve been reading this blog, you’re already ahead), and finally, FINALLY watch my Medal-Heads documentary in London! If you want a preview, check out this article on Olympic failure: “Here’s the first difference between watching the Olympics on television and watching them in person: It is devastating when someone falls down.” If you’re nowhere near Brooklyn, I’ll post the trivia up after the event and you can plan your Olympics party with some great Russian food.

One last thing:



A Look Back At London, Part 1: Sulagna

Tower Bridge

A Look Back on London During the Games

It’s been almost a year since the London Olympics—my how time flies! To mark the occasion, we decided to pick each other’s brains about our time spent at the Olympics. Meeting people from around the world, getting swept up in the excitement—all with a camera in hand—there is one thing we both agree on: this was an experience that will never be forgotten.

Kia: What did you do before you got there to prepare?

Sulagna: I looked up lots and lots and lots of events on London 2012 websites, like pub meetups or shows or anything where I would meet people to interview. That’s how I found stuff like the Unexpected Items sketch comedy show. Although, once I got there I did find a lot of places where I would go over and get nothing back, like pubs I went to where people were like “No cameras ever.”

Kia: You got to London first and were on your own for a week, what was that like?

Sulagna: When I was on my own for a week, I was kind of at a loss. I didn’t have a phone and I figured I knew how the Tube worked, but it was all so overwhelming! It helped that I had family there that gave me advice. I had to force myself to talk to more people in one day than I would talk to in a month in real life. It was terrifying, but I liked all the people I met. Well, at least the ones that would talk to me! A couple people ran away from me! That was really odd. Oh, but the nice people were SO nice. One thing that was cool was that people were always celebrating over someone winning!

Kia: What did you go there hoping to catch on camera? What were you expecting people to say? And did you walk away from your first few interviews saying “Oh this is awesome?” or “Uh oh, I’m totally off the mark!”

Continue reading

Symbols of London 2012: Chris Hoy’s Imagined Community (Guest Post)

This essay is from my friend David Tobia, an undergraduate at USC taking Sports Diplomacy. More from this great class to come!

Great Britain's Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Great Britain’s Chris Hoy carries the flag during the Opening Ceremony at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 27, 2012, in London. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

It’s 11:58 local time in London when the host nation finally enters Olympic Stadium. David Bowie’s Heroes blasts through speakers as the crowd sings “I – I will be King. And you – you will be queen.” Scottish Cyclist Sir Chris Hoy carries the British flag to honor his Olympic teammates as well as all the citizens of Hoy’s imagined community: Great Britain.

“Though nothing will drive them away. We can beat them just for one day – we can be heroes” the crowd continues, emphasizing the refrain: “We can be heroes!”

For the 2012 London Olympic Games, “we” includes 541 athletes – more than any other nation[1]. And “we” does not just include English athletes, but also Imogen Bankier, a badminton player from Glasgow, Scotland and Ryan Giggs, a 38-year old Welsh footballer revered for his illustrious career with Manchester United, who has never appeared in any major international tournament.

Continue reading

NBC Intern Files: Emilie, Part II: “There was a photo to be taken at almost every moment”

Emilie Mateu, a USC undergraduate senior, was an NBC intern during the London Olympics this past summer. She shared her experiences on her blog, An American Frog in London. She answered several questions on her amazing experience. This is Part II; read Part I here!
The Tower Bridge (from Emilie's blog)

The Tower Bridge (from Emilie’s blog)

I saw you have some pictures from instagram! I saw a lot of pictures from the Olympics on there. Did you notice that too? Were there any you liked in particular?
The Olympics is one of the few things that almost everyone watches, so naturally all forms of social media (including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) were inundated with Olympics related content. For those of us that were lucky enough to be at the Olympics, there was a photo to be taken at almost every moment. One of my favorite photos that I took, aside from those that I took at the many events I attended was of the big Olympic rings hanging from the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is so iconic of London and to see the rings hanging from it made the whole scene seem even more unreal than it already does.
Watching Phelps and Franklin win gold (from Emilie's blog)

Watching Phelps and Franklin win gold (from Emilie’s blog)

You wrote that now you prefer sports over the news. Can you expand on why?

Corporate Sponsors (And Olympic Deals)

Tube Station

The corporate sponsors were inescapable during the Games.

Tube Station

Coca Cola, anyone?

Not just in advertising, but in advertising for advertising — the LOCOG made sure you knew who was paying for all the pink around the city.


All your sponsors gathered in one place!

Continue reading

Exploring the London 2012 National Hospitality Houses

This is an expanded version of an article previously posted and written for PDiN Monitor as part of the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy. See the previous version here.

The London 2012 Olympics—what an exciting place to be! Kia and I were able to experience this first hand. We found that some of the most intriguing settings were the National Hospitality Houses scattered throughout the city.

The National Hospitality Houses (NHHs) were pubs, museums, historic buildings, and parks that national Olympic committees rented for the duration of the games to …what? Well, the problem with describing all these houses is that they all had different purposes. Some, such as the USA hospitality house, were not open to the public. Continue reading

Getting Lost in London

One thing the LOCOG assured visitors of during the Games was that they would not get lost. The inevitability of this happening is based on entrance to a foreign country and the confusing differences between the UK and the US (where are the street signs? why aren’t the crosswalks at the ends of the roads? why is everyone going the wrong way?).

It’s actually pretty easy to find lost people.


But basic construction of the city has made it friendlier, because you don’t have to ask for directions. Except for maybe these call centers in the Tube.

You press a button and a British voice comes out!

By putting up signs, directions, and posts that say “you are here,” being lost is not seen as a cause for alarm and embarrassment.

Signs like this were all over central London

Close-up at Baker Street

Since I took the Tube, I noticed the use of the LOCOG’s particular shade of pink to point out Olympic stadium locations.

Can you see the pink?

It was at a point that no one could get to Olympic Park without being blind.

Pink sign!

People in the UK don’t get off the train, they ALIGHT.

Now, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with asking for directions, and actually, the people I asked for directions were very nice, especially the volunteers. Though I can understand why people were apprehensive to ask Londoners, considering how much traffic the Olympics was supposed to bring in.

Signs like this weren’t as helpful.

However, the volunteers were also great help too. Especially after they did this to the signs.

Sign Castle!

How Londoners Stopped Worrying And Learned to Love the Olympics

The main reactions I’ve seen from residents of London (based on random interviews around London) about the Olympics has been:

a) Fear

b) Cautious excitement

c) …Followed by actual excitement

d) Devastating snark

Let me break it down.

The first is likely because everyone was worried about the devastation we visitors and tourists would do to the transportation and general aura of the city. Although it’s primarily about how stuffed the Jubilee line has become — although it really is nothing compared to the PATH train from New York to New Jersey.

Jubilee Line At Canning Town

Er…at least everyone is standing politely.

The cautious excitement came after the realization that actually, it wasn’t all that bad. The tourists were nice enough. The city hadn’t broken down. It was like a sigh of relief. The Opening Ceremony was particularly promising, with its rampant wit and references to James Bond and Harry Potter and Mr. Bean.

Mr Bean

via News.Com.Au

And that cautious excitement became actual excitement when various British athletes — such as Jessica Ennis, Rebecca Adlington, and most recently, Andy Murray, began to do the country proud. People gathered in pubs and at home to cheer these people on.

Andy Murray and his awesome Union Jacket via the Guardian

And finally, there’s the devastating snark, hinted at during the Opening ceremony, that I’ve seen all around. Here are some (unfortunately mostly unrecorded) conversations I’ve been a part of (though I’ve also been eavesdropping):

“Did you seen the Queen during the opening ceremony? When they went to her when the UK finally came up in the nations walk, she was looking at her nails. And the commentator said, ‘Here’s the Queen, clearly riveted.’ It’s like, no she’s not, she’s just looking at her nails!”

“I like the signs that tell people where to go. But they’ll be pointing all in one direction until you turn a corner and then they’ll point the opposite way!”

Me: (in conversation with someone else) “It’s really hard to get British people to talk to me [on camera].”
Random woman standing in between us: “Oh, it’s really hard to get us to stop talking.”

“I believe Usain Bolt is the Noam Chomsky of the Olympics — it’s just really easy for him to do what he does.”

“I could run as fast as Usain Bolt, if I tried!”

“Oh, Michael Phelps, is he the pothead?”

Announcement on DLR: “I’ve just heard that Andy Murray has won the gold, everyone! Let’s have some cheers for him!”
Everyone in the front cheers; everyone else: “Yeaaaaahhh…!”

“I love Jessica Ennis, she’s like the next Princess Diana!”

“My favorite athlete is the swimmer, Andy Murray.” (Admittedly this came from a seven-year-old.)

“Oh, the Olympics. I should watch that.”

Finally, this woman in Stratford, directing people around the Olympic Park:

This woman

To various fans passing her: “You alright, sir? …Are you alright? …You’re alright, of course…You alright?”


Guest Post: If I Could Just Have a Minute of Your Time

Here’s another great guest post from an Annenberg alum (with a master’s in global communication), Jason Reinin, about the IOC’s decision not to have a moment of silence for the murders at the 1972 Munich Olympics. To learn more about the events at Munich, please read the powerful book ‘One Day in September’ or watch the documentary (narrated by Michael Douglas) of the same name for free here.

1972 Munich

The 1972 Israeli Delegation to the Olympic Games with those numbered who did not return.


I love the Olympics.  I cheer for the US in any sport they’re in, even if it’s an obscure sport I’ve never heard of.  And I’m not alone.  I root for the same team as every American.  Black, white, rich, poor, Muslim, Christian, tall, short, young, old, you name it…we Americans root side-by-side for the team that represents us all. The Olympics are a unifying force that pushes us past our political differences and towards our commonality.

But it’s more than that.

When the Olympics are on, I find myself not just rooting for the US, but for all the athletes. While techniques for the various sports may differ from country to country, the human spirit and drive for excellence is the same. Watching 204 countries representing a beautiful tapestry of humanity, of every color and social class, competing in the same rigidly controlled sports competitions is truly awe-inspiring. As if a thousand accents were all speaking the same language simultaneously around the world.

The magic of the Olympics is the unification of the globe in an apolitical way.  It has the power to unite all humankind through our common bonds. And this is why I was disappointed by the choice that was made to not hold a minute of silence for the 11 Olympic athletes murdered 40 years ago.

At the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, Germany, there was a sense of hope reverberating around the globe.  A country that was the pariah of the world, an invader of countries and perpetrators of the Holocaust just decades prior was now holding an event to bring the world together.  This was an idea celebrated throughout the world, and having Israel, the Jewish State, compete was good for everybody.

Unfortunately, this hope was soon shattered as a terrorist group named ‘Black September’ (named for the Jordanian massacre of Palestinians in September of 1970) simply climbed the fence into the Olympic village and went looking for the Israeli team.  Two members of the Olympic delegation from Israel were murdered immediately and nine members were taken hostage with demands that 200 political prisoners be freed from various countries around the world. The Olympics had a decision to make. Do they carry on with the games or do they stop them?

It took 11 hours before Germany stopped the games.  After more hours of negotiation and pleading, Germany took the terrorists and the hostages to a nearby airfield where they were supposed to board a plane to escape, but instead were met with snipers who killed all but three of the Black September group. Unfortunately this was a botched mission and before the snipers could kill the terrorists, all the hostages were murdered.

This wasn’t just an attack on Israelis, but also an attack on the idea that the Olympics are a place to rise above politics.  We cheer for gold medalists of any competition, not because s/he comes from a specific country, but because we recognize how hard it is to reach true excellence.   Conversely, we feel the same way for those athletes who stumble and fall because we have all been there ourselves.  We empathize with the athletes because they are all human beings and thus a reflection of our global family. And when members of our family pass away, we hold memorial for them.

It is now 2012 and the 40th anniversary of the 11 murdered in Munich.  Many requests were made by Israel and several peace groups to hold a minute of silence during the opening ceremonies. The 1972 Israeli team participated in a global healing process by competing in Germany where 6 million of their people were murdered. The least the Olympic committee can do is spare one minute to pay respect and show solidarity in the same spirit.

I understand, however, that anything having to do with Israel is automatically a politicized issue, and the Olympic committee, as I’ve seen, usually bends to the polemics. This can be seen most recently with news that the Lebanese team has refused to practice next to the Israeli team without a wall being built between them. Instead of the IOC rising above the politics of these countries, they literally put a wall in between them.  However, in the greater scheme of things, it does not make a difference if the 11 murdered were Israeli or not. The reality is that those lost could have been any athletes from any country.

I’m disappointed because it is such a rare opportunity that the world has this chance to rise above politics and demonstrate global unity.  Holding one minute, not for Israeli athletes, but for the HUMAN athletes would demonstrate that the politics of a terrorist group cannot overrun the games and that the humanity of a global family can shine through.

Just as I would cheer for any athlete winning gold and representing the excellence of mankind or tense up when any athlete from any country stumbles, I would mourn and argue for this moment of silence for any country that had this tragedy befall them. Not for the benefit of the specific country, but for the human spirit of us all. The Munich massacre was not an Israel-specific tragedy, but an Olympic (and therefore global) one.

Yes, memorial services have been held in the past and off-camera remarks have been made with true and sincere caring about the lost athletes. However, the horror of Munich took place in front of the world to politicize an issue and therefore it seems only appropriate to commemorate it by holding a moment of silence in front of the world to see. Just to spare one moment during the opening ceremony would have been a strong showing that we are indeed a world family. We must show those who are against the idea of a global humanity that the Olympic family, as a representation of the world family, doesn’t just let our members be executed and forgotten.  I agree with Olympic broadcaster Bob Costas who, before taking a self-imposed on-air 5 seconds of silence during the opening ceremony, said, “…For many, tonight with the world watching, is the true time and place to remember those who were lost and how and why they died”.  There are rare moments in time when we can do the right thing on a global level, and I believe the IOC missed its moment here.

Shortly before being taken hostage, Andre Spitzer, one of the members of the Israeli team, approached a member of the Lebanese team and had a short, cordial conversation with him about sports. Outside of the Olympics, this would have been almost impossible given the political situation. Upon Andre’s return to the Israeli team he remarked, “…that’s exactly what the Olympics are all about; here I can go over and talk to them…you see? This is what I was dreaming about…”

Human commonality and spirit above politics, this is what we should all dream about.

In the face of an Olympic tragedy, an Olympic minute for memorial was asked. One minute to honor those lost. One minute of a three-hour ceremony. One minute to showcase global unity.

The time it took you to read this post was probably about five minutes.

CPD Blog: For the Fans

I wrote an essay for the University of Southern California’s Center on Public Diplomacy blog for an in-depth look at my project.

via the New York Times

via the New York Times

The Olympics are never free of controversy. The competing agendas of Olympic stakeholders lead to clashes–tensions are born and re-awakened. Everything from the problematic omniscience of the International Olympic Committee and NBC’s intense focus on the United States  to the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ many bouts with disgruntled Britons  has contributed to an Olympic Games that is, per usual, a mixture of excitement and annoyance.



The most constant part of the Olympics is the fans. Not necessarily the intense sports fans; just the people who love the Olympics, who weave their enthusiasm into their everyday lives. The Games will just never want for fans because they appeal to everyone to some degree, whether casual or passionate. Even if you’re not a particular lover of sports, the opening ceremonies promise to entertain (thanks to Danny Boyle bringing in elements such as sheep and Daniel Craig as James Bond ). And perhaps a new sport will catch your eye; if not because of the novelty of a sport like synchronized swimming being showcased on an international scale, then perhaps because of spellbinding Olympic moments with athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. Then there are the people who want to see the bliss of the Olympics in real time and come to the actual place – maybe for the first time or the fifth, but nevertheless with passion.

As a Master’s of Public Diplomacy student at the University of Southern California, these are the people that are of most interest to me. I want to see the people who want to be mired in the exhilaration of the Games. Before entering my degree program, I was already vaguely interested in the Olympics, but through my studies, specifically in cultural diplomacy, I focused my perspective on the Games as an international diplomatic event that has several combating schemas with everyone in the world potentially watching.

via the Economist

via the Economist

To take a closer look at the Olympics as a tool of cultural diplomacy, I am making a documentary focusing on the motivations and desires of these fans. I chose a documentary because of my past experience in production and to be able to tell these fans’ stories in their own words. Through them, I will also analyze the magnetic draw of the Olympics that entices broadcasterscorporate sponsors and host countries to pay billions of dollars merely to be associated with the Games, even if they do not gain from it monetarily. In terms of the visibility, the profit is enormous, even more so now that approximately one third of the world’s population is connected by the Internet; and, this Olympic Games is the most social-media fueled ever  thanks to the popularity of sites like Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook.

This latter element is another part of my project – connecting with fans around the world as they gather either in London or in front of their screens through my blog and other social media. Fans connect in different ways through this media: Tumblr focuses on sharing photos (such as that of the Olympic Torch going through their respective towns); Facebook has a special page for fans to focus on athletes; national broadcasters host Q & A sessions with athletes on Twitter.

Before the Opening Ceremony, I am focusing on the various news stories surrounding the Games: the IOC’s gender regulation, ticket controversies, and the frustration of the fans at the policing of their entertainment, which can range from a restriction on using “London 2012” on anything to banning gifts to the athletes because “free” will compete with corporate sponsors. During the Games, I will go directly to London and meet with the fans – specifically at the London festival, fan-hosted events, and any areas where fans congregate, such as Olympic concerts.

For such a politicized, monetized, and overwrought event, it is inspiring to find sincere anticipation. Of course, every type of event where there are winners and losers has cynicism, but the problems feel more pronounced on an international scale. The fans may be the main audience for all these different agendas and the most irritated by the various mishaps and missteps, but they are also the ones who will be watching no matter what.