The Sochi Olympics sparked the onset of a distinctive hashtag that will forever mark the notoriety of the 2014 competition: #SochiProblems. The outbreak of this hashtag spread all throughout /twitter, exposing a plethora of unfortunate conditions that have left both Olympic athletes and individuals from around the world who keep themselves tuned in to the Olympics in awe. Examples of these unfortunate conditions include unfinished hallways embellished with loose wires and cords, missing lobbies and coat hangers, falling light fixtures, incomplete plumbing, unsafe water, multiple toilets to one bathroom with no wall around them, broken elevators and doors, and numbers more.
The most unfortunate conditions, however, are those that were endured by the workers who slaved to construct the aforementioned buildings, and I do literally mean slaved. According to the Humans Rights Watch, migrant workers have been “cheated and exploited” while building sites for the Sochi Olympics, where many employers “cheated workers out of wages, required them to work 12-hour shifts with few days off, and confiscated passports and work permits, apparently to coerce workers to remain in exploitative jobs.”1
The #SochiProblem tweets also left many Russians baffled. Not only did the tweeters often present their tweets in “the written voice of a Russian who speaks poor English,” but as Sarah Kaufman of PolicyMic quotes New Republic senior editor Julie Ioffe, Russians are “puzzled by the why the Americans and the British are so very happy that the details are a little screwy, the way they generally are in Russia.”2 In response, Russians have deemed the tweeting “zloradstvo,” or “malicious glee.”2Kaufman also highlights that journalists and athletes “only have to deal with it for a few weeks. Locals have to deal with it until Russian Railways or Sochi officials decide to build them a new water supply system,” which Kaufman reports was promised four years ago.2
Considering the conditions of the migrant workers and the conditions of local Russians, the ignorant and privileged nature of the #SochiProblem tweets are brought center stage. What messages do revered Olympic athletes send when they ridicule citizens of the country that they compete in because of language barriers? What messages are sent when athletes criticize the work of exploited, cheated laborers? Some food for thought for those who were not aware of such circumstances.
Written by: Jovanna Ponco