Here is a great article in today’s SFGate (SF Chronicle on line version):
“Olympic attendees and journalists could learn a few things from travelers. Travelers tend to care more about what they can learn from the local culture than what they can get from it. Travelers know there’s little point getting angry with the guy behind the counter (and that there are advantages of being the one nice person they meet all day). And, most importantly, travelers tend to adapt better: Manhole covers are missing? Watch where you step. The train was early? Find the bus (and make a friend in the process). The bathroom door is stuck? Destroy it — and remember it as a funny story instead of something you have to whine to world about. Hotel hasn’t been built yet? Stow your luggage and start meeting locals. Maybe someone will let you crash on the couch until the situation is resolved. The tap water is brown? Drink beer.
This isn’t supposed to be a giant convention junket. It’s the Olympic Games. It should be about the meeting (and competing) among scores of people from opposite ends of the Earth. It should be about something bigger. Some folks just need to get some context.”
While what we see on the daily Olympic sports coverage looks like an athletes paradise, the practical part of being in a developing, or should we say, redeveloping country like Russia is this. Just roll with it. I cannot imagine that the infrastructure back at the Olympic Games at Squaw Valley in 1950 were any better! They did not want to build a bobsled run, so Squaw was the only Olympics to not have the bobsled event contested.
In fact, the Russians won 21 medals, and I doubt they complained as much as today’s journalists! Of course, there were only thirty nations competing in twenty-seven different events. Figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey were played on artificial ice for the first time. CBS bought the television rights for only $50,000. Walt Disney was chairman of the Pageantry Committee, handling the Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
More shockingly, the U.S. hockey team won the gold medal, over the dreaded Soviet Union team. The biathlon made its Olympic debut at Squaw Valley. Women were allowed to compete in speed skating for the first time. The downhill won by a Frenchman changed the sport by becoming the first Olympic champion to use metal skis for the first time.
Organizers built the first Olympic Village at the winter games. I actually stayed in one of the old Olympic village dorms, after it was converted to a low-cost ski lodge! The toilet and shower facilities were located down the hall. The U.S. won a total of ten medals. Athletes from West and East Germany competed on the same team. The U.S. team had the most athletes participating, with 79.
So, the world has come a long way since 1960. Can you imagine the outcry if these games were held at Squaw Valley again? Journalists would be bussed in from Reno or Sacramento. And until last week, the ski resorts did not have much snow. On the plus side, the Interstate 80 freeway was built back then. I think you get the idea, things were different back then, not so different from Sochi in 2014.