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Olympic credibility flushed down [non-working] toilets of Sochi

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  February 6, 2014 12:28 AM

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Olympic News 1936:

"These Olympic Games have had an opening notable even beyond expectations, high as these were. They seem likely to accomplish what the rulers of Germany have frankly desired from them, that is, to give the world a new viewpoint from which to regard the Third Reich: It is promising that this viewpoint will be taken from an Olympic hill of peace."

Olympic News 2014:

No one was talking about the toilets in 1936. But the Fuhrer did flush all those anti-Semitic signs that adorned Berlin before the 11th Summer Games.

Bodily functions are a big deal when people are three and first learn how to use the potty or 93 and are no longer able to do so. The army of "journalists" who have descended upon Vladimir Putin's sandbox had the misfortune, no make that the sheer trauma, of checking into hotels that did not have working restrooms, fully-functioning lobbies or door knobs.

The toilets, however, are the No. 1 and No. 2 stories in Sochi.

When you make the fatal mistake of inconveniencing reporters, especially sports writers, columnists and blogger types, and TV folk who are used to being coddled, you are writing your own media-relations death sentence. These apocalyptic inconveniences will ultimately trivialize any real news that will take place here. Any massive structural failure, catastrophic injury or, God forbid, a terrorist attack, will be rendered a minor disruption because Puck Daddy couldn't flush his two-ply Charmin while dropping a deuce.

The possibility of these pampered scribes who are on the company dime being forced to consider adult-sized Pampers, or some other option, was breathlessly reported across social and legitimate media this week. The preceding link takes you to the Washington Post, the newspaper that once brought down Nixon and has won 47 Pulitzer Prizes. $275 million doesn't go nearly as far as it used to, Mr. Bezos.

The Post is not alone.

The Wall Street Journal has moved beyond counting Bill Belichick's smiles. One of its reporters Tweeted a photo of the inner-workings of her hotel room's toilet [she could not flush, either] and another had the door on his hotel room opened and closed at 4 a.m. Nothing happened. But the door was opened.

The horror of it all.

Meanwhile, the Dow has fallen 11 percent this year, our National Debt is now $17.3 trillion and 93 million Americans are no longer in the work force. Sometimes a pay wall is a good thing.

Journalists love to report on themselves. Much of that is human nature. We're often our favorite person. When sports writers and editors are in a city woefully unprepared for an Olympiad it should have never been given in the first place, that offers a combustible recipe for sarcasm [always a favorite in this space], indignation and sanctimony. These media inconveniences are relevant only in a broader story detailing the problems awaiting athletes and those fans daring enough to attend these Games.

But on their own, they reinforce the shortcoming in today's sports media environment, namely the charge of way too much style and so little substance. It's even more glaring when you see this done with all the seriousness of someone covering the landing on Omaha Beach.

No, kids, Peyton Manning had nothing to do with that one.

Ernie Pyle, Marguerite Higgins and David Bloom were brilliant journalists and daring war correspondents. Pyle was killed during battle on an island near Okinawa in 1945. Higgins caught a fatal skin infection in Vietnam. Bloom died of an embolism, ostensibly caused by hours and hours of traveling to and from the front lines in Iraq, often in difficult and awkward positions. None of them ever complained on the record about whatever latrine or ditch they used in the field.

Had they had the benefit of Twitter, one can only imagine the images and anecdotes they could have shared. I'll wager what's left of my 401K that none would have bothered to Tweet about their working conditions, dining choices or bathroom options.

As someone who managed sports journalists for 20 or so years, I am very familiar with their personal proclivities. I don't want to generalize too much here, and many of the credentialed media in Russia covering the Games this month have done it well for decades. The flurry of Tweets, Facebook posts, Vines and Instagram images of media hotel rooms and toilets this week, however, did nothing to tell us about the conditions for the athletes or fans.

The most interesting journalistic revelation thus far came from Trenni Kusnierek on Wednesday's Toucher and Rich show on 98.5 The Sports Hub. This is not surprising since she is a Marquette graduate. Kusnierek will be broadcasting curling as part of NBC's coverage. She said the curling teams are practicing in Switzerland because things are not yet ready in Russia. That, combined with Shaun White taking a pass on the slopestyle competition to focus solely on the half-pipe, tell me that this Olympiad isn't even close to being ready for prime time - either live or on tape delay.

I love great sports journalism, even though you can't tell by reading this column on a regular basis. I've been fortunate to cover, either on site or as an editor, virtually every sporting event imaginable. The Games began at 1 a.m. Thursday [Eastern time]. Those tasked with reporting from Sochi may be have to divert themselves from the loo and cover actual news and sporting events. Journalists should never be the story. When we commit occasional acts of journalism in this space, it is self-evident and done with minimal self-aggrandizement.

While the journo-kids in Sochi were posting photos of their hotel rooms and the offerings in the media mess hall, there was real news going thanks to a warning about a very real terror threat having to do with toothpaste bombs on airplanes. Mitt Romney, who salvaged and ran the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, spoke on CNN Wednesday about Sochi. He said he'd go to the Games if his schedule allowed it and said those within the Olympic "ring of steel" should feel safe. Outside the "ring of steel," not so much.

All the toilets worked back in Salt Lake from the first flush, toilet paper and all. It's amazing what a little capitalism can do. Romney once put his dog on the roof of his car as he drove his family on the highway. In Sochi, stray dogs apparently are being rounded up and disposed of on a mass scale.

Cats remain in abundance.

No word yet on stray people.

The Olympics were created as a way to put the real world on hold while nude athletes from the various Greek city-states competed without fear of things turning ugly uglier. The Olympics were great fun during the Cold War. The U.S. hockey victory over the Soviet Union in 1980 was the sporting equivalent of winning World War III. Finland was a mere after thought.

But the Olympics and politics all too often mix. To wit, from the same New York Times piece in 1936:

Adolf Hitler was receiving the plaudits of a league far removed from politics, a league of peaceful sport to which he had become the proud host. There can be no doubt that he was proud at this moment of the climax of two years' patient preparation and endeavor. For once pride in an achievement showed in his bearing.

Well done, Adolf. Probably not the Times' finest hour.

These are the most expensive Olympics ever, costing $51 billion. For that much money, you would think the drinking non-drinking water would not be quite so yellow. Every cell phone and computer that connects to the internet in Sochi is being hacked. What else would you expect from a nation whose current top exports are vodka, internet porn and ID theft? During these Olympics, everything that doesn't take place on the ice or snow is soaked in geo-politics, gross denials of basic human rights, Vladimir Putin's ego and Russia's place within the world.

On second thought, maybe toilet Tweets aren't so bad, after all.

Got a news tip, want to let me know directly what you think, or have a complaint or compliment about my "aggressively relevant" content, hit me up on our Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or e-mail me at obnoxiousbostonfan@hotmail.com. Thanks always for reading and pass the clicker.

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