Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sochi Winter Olympics

These Olympics finished without any violent incidence is a big relief to everyone. Danger of a terror attack was real and howsoever oppressive and heavy handed Russian Security Apparatus is; it avoided any such unpleasant disruptions. In general Russian President Putin got what he wanted - glory to the mother land by conducting a successful Olympics. So what if it has been expensive? This is Russia, Oil money is plenty and the Czarist mentality does not go away where rulers are less answerable to people's money.

Russian athletes delivered great performance. As usual, in last days of the game Russians won large number of medals to come on the top. President Putin would be delighted by this icing on the cake. Of these medals it included a coveted medal of Women's Figure Skating, though controversial in some quarters. (As many knowledgeable commentators are saying, that sport might face some tough times as atheletes are reluctant to join considering manipulations which go on in awarding points and results become more and more influenced by external factors rather than pure performance. It is such a subjective sport.) Of course Russia had their share of disappointments too - chiefly loss to American team in Men's Ice Hockey.

Sadly USA Team could not build on that victory over Russia. Once they lost to Canada it went all down hill there after in the loss to Finland by 5-0 margin. Couple of Summer Olympics back (I think in 2004 Athens game); USA Basketball Team had very poor performance. Kobe Bryant took it to himself and then USA ensured that it would win Gold medal in 2008 and retain that in 2012. I am not sure whether that is something likely to happen for USA Ice Hockey Team; but USOC needs to think seriously here; it has been a poor performance.

USA's poor performance is not restricted to Mens's Ice Hockey only (Women's Team also lost to Canada in the final to settle on silver medal). The most disastrous results were in Speed Skating. USA speed skaters not only could win a single medal in 10 events, in most cases they came 7th and 8th! USA speed skaters seriously undermined dominance of Dutch. Talking of Netherlands, they won total of 24 medals at Sochi - all but except 1 in Speed Skating. Of 31 medals of that games, Dutch alone won 23; talk about some sporting dominance at the top levels of Olympics!

The sport where USA Team did well is Freeskiing when it was introduced for the first time in Winter Olympics. Without those 7 medals, USA essentially got only 21 medals in all other traditional sports; not a very good performance. It is true that overall every game is getting more competitive with each passing Olympics. So it will not be any easy for USA to continue to pull good performance Olympics and after Olympics. (USA won 37 medals in Vancouver Canada in 2010 and 25 in Torino, Italy 2006.) But then so much advertising is dependent on USA Olympic Team Performance. The amount of money poured and athletes at work, this is a serious commercial enterprise for American Capitalism and American Corporations; so return on money invested matters. What is true is USA contingent competed in practically all sports as President Putin gushingly remarked. Sure, part of it is a politics to praise your adversary in sports and President Putin did all that good. But as Putin changes his focus from Sochi to what is happening in his backyard - Ukraine - he is unlikely to have any kind words to USA and EU. That is where his 'real games' would start. 

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