After the Soviet Union collapse in Dec. 1991, Russia has not been able to maintain the elite Olympic success of the Soviet-Era. The Sochi Olympics are Russia’s attempt to revitalize the athletic dominance of years past and prove their place as the country hosts the Winter Olympics for the first time.
At the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, Russia won three gold medals, the fewest they had ever won in any prior Winter Olympics. This year, the hope is that Russia can medal in at least 11 events, instead of the seven events in Vancouver.
However, it remains to be seen if Vladimir Putin’s ambition to restore Russian pride and athletic dominance will be viable without the Soviet regime. The circumstances have changed dramatically. Athletes are no longer raised to be solely Soviet competitors; they now have the freedom to train and compete in other countries. Also, foreign sporting events are more accessible for Russian citizens to watch these days. Furthermore, although success can be beneficial for Russian athletes, the fear and repercussions of losing are not nearly as prominent as they were before the end of the Cold War.
It will be interesting to see if Russia’s attempt at athletic revitalization will be successful in the Sochi Olympics without the Soviet mindset.
Since Russia is not only participating in the Olympic Games this year, but they are also hosting, the scrutiny does not end with the physical performances in the events. The Sochi Olympics are likewise a chance to boast the country’s success since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Although events do not start for another day, Sochi is already off to a bit of a rough start. Journalists are documenting the unfinished hotel accommodations as they have started to arrive in Sochi this week. The last-minute construction caused by persistent rain has already left some doubt as to whether Russia can get Sochi up to the Olympic expectations.
Not only is construction dampening the lead-up to the Olympics, safety issues are of even more concern. Islamic rebels in the North Caucasus have caused some disturbance with recent bombings in Volgograd that killed 34 people; Volgograd is approximately 425 miles away. In addition, there are fears that three suicide bombers may be in the area.
Security and military presence have helped to ease the tension for athletes and attendees. There are highly monitored checkpoints for entering and exiting the premises. The police force has been increased dramatically. This is all “designed to create a feeling of security,” said Drexel University associate professor of homeland security, Scott J. White.
Russia is working quickly and constantly to remediate the construction and security concerns. They have spent an estimated $50 billion or more on the Olympic sites and foundation and are confident that they can host a safe and spectacular Winter Olympics full of Russian pride.
Then, Russia’s main concern at the Sochi Olympics will be earning as many medals as possible and attempting to revitalize the glory days of the former Soviet Union.
By Rebecca Hofland