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:

Oh, COME ON.

The Vatican’s Cricket Team and Faith in Sports

I didn't know he needed keys

The Vatican cricket team’s emblem: the keys of St. Peter

How is sport like faith? Faith can be similarly used for cooperation, friendship, money, or play. In terms of fitness, if anyone has been to a religious institution, it’s likely they’ve done hard labor around the temple grounds, or played in a soccer game with friends after a particularly long religious function. You travel for faith, taking planes and buses and walking to Mecca or the Vatican or church the way you travel for sport, to the World Cup or the Olympics or to your brother’s little league game. You watch faith, at your church’s Christmas show or the religious stories that air on television during Christmas or during a christening, the way you watch sports in a bar or at the match, cheering with your brethren, although damning the other team under your breath is not seen as serious as doing the same in religious ceremonies — though both can end in violence, as evidenced by when the Red Sox won this year. And you can celebrate faith recreationally, on your own time: what is the difference between playing with a ball in your office, throwing it and catching and just engaging in some fun, compared to saying a silent prayer over your child’s head, or giving money to a homeless man, or telling the person you joined in religious ceremony that you love them?

I was dazzled by this story about the Vatican starting its own cricket team. Continue reading

Three Big Olympic Decisions in Buenos Aires

This weekend, the International Olympic Committee gathered in Buenos Aires and had a big party that I wasn’t invited to made some big decisions that would reverberate throughout the next few years on a very international scale. Luckily, each representative is chosen by democratic vote by all Olympic partici — wait, what am I saying? Actually, the IOC’s new members are chosen by the current IOC’s members, based on no criteria whatsoever. Well, maybe wealth, and fame, and networking. Yes, it’s exactly like high school. And yes, that means all their decisions can be made — and likely are made — based on personal interest.

Anyway, they decided a lot of important Olympic decisions all on their own. In each circumstance, the country or sport made an impassioned bid and the IOC voted privately.

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An Overcomplicated, Underrated Issue: Russia’s Gay Ban Controversy

So I wanted to write a post about the controversy arising from a Russian lawmaker’s comment that Russia’s homophobic laws would be enacted with extreme prejudice on Olympic athletes. Unfortunately, this was very hard to write because I had a lot of righteous anger that is not usually conducive to typing on a computer, mainly because your urge to throw something across the room is in direct opposition with that fact. I wasn’t planning on writing about Sochi 2014 so soon. There’s so much information that I decided to organize this post on all the players involved. Please keep in mind that my tone is jesting because sometimes you have to laugh rather than continue to pull your hair out.

sochi 2014

Look how pretty! Look how homophobic!

The Russian Government

Haha, Russia. You’re so funny. Yes, let’s host the largest international sporting event in the world and then threaten the people coming with possible human rights abuses. That’ll really up our brand. Better yet, let’s threaten the men and women who, by coming to this Olympics, are some of the most finely honed physical specimens in the world. They can probably all kill us with their bare hands and eat us for breakfast and then win a gold medal.

And what’s with you, passing such laws in the first place? Alright Russia, pretend you can do what you want and you don’t care what anyone thinks. I mean, it’s not like you’ve ever had to face the consequences when it comes to your actions towards minority groups, right? You’re been Russia all my life, so it’s always been that way, right?

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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.

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Symbols of London 2012: The Power of Orange

via BBC

via BBC

The biggest defeat on the part of Team Great Britain in the London 2012 Olympics was to the Dutch. More specifically, it was to the color orange. What had been set up as a must-win for Team GB – as it was their home turf and a return to a men’s hockey semifinal match after a quarter of a century – ended up being a sound defeat, with a score of 9-2. The Dutch reveled heartily, the fans and athletes alike dressed head to toe in orange.

Was this color orange the charm that led to the defeat of Team GB? Should the win be chalked up to the Dutch blinding the Team GB athletes with their overpowering orange uniforms?

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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?

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

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?”

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