, Salem, MA


February 24, 2014

Our view: The good, the bad and the ugly from Sochi

The failure of the fifth pyrotechnic snowflake to blossom into an Olympic ring during the opening ceremony at the Winter Olympics in Sochi may well symbolize the success — or lack thereof — of these games.

Of course, not everyone saw that technical blooper. Russian TV instead aired prerecorded footage of a successful aerial display.

There have been plenty of winners and losers, far beyond the immediate athletic arena.

Russia spent more preparing for these Olympics than any other host country has, in excess of $51 billion. That’s what happens when the venue must be built from scratch.

In Russian President Vladimir Putin’s mind, the overspending may have been worth it. The hope remains that the resort region will attract lots of visitors and their money long after the closing ceremony today.

But it opens the question, can countries afford to host the winter games and should there be a budget cap? No less important, is there a country where weather is a near guarantee?

No one can blame the Russians for the 60-degree days and dense fog that sent some events into a tailspin and had athletes grumbling about the poor conditions.

But there are plenty of areas where the blame falls squarely on the host country and its irascible leader.

The country’s law restricting gay rights activity drew outage, as well it should. It also likely resulted in President Barack Obama’s decision not to attend the games and to keep his wife and vice president away, as well. The presidents of France and Germany had prior commitments, too, that kept them away.

Obama went a step further, sending two openly gay athletes as members of the U.S. delegation to opening and closing ceremonies.

Google was among the international businesses to register protest. The Internet king flaunted a rainbow-hued Doodle on opening day.

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