Sochi is Not the Problem. It’s Me.

I admit it, I’m guilty.

I cringe when I see the news clips of dark yellow water in Sochi hotels. Eww. Gross. To think people can’t even wash their faces with the water. Bob Costas can’t even wash out his eye.

And I laugh at the absurdity of a stark naked athlete breaking down a bathroom door to free himself from a failed doorknob.

So yes, I am a girl from a First World country who gasps and gawks at the unfinished Sochi hotel rooms.

But today as I read an article about yet another #SochiProblem, I gasp at myself for once. The word “strangeness” jumps out at me from the computer screen.

When did I, along with the rest of North America, become culturally incompetent?

When did we fail to acknowledge the fact that the rest of the world does not always live exactly like we do? The rest of the world has different cultural norms. Different traditions. Different ways of life.

When did different become strange?

And why is different bad?

Instead of talking about the less than 5-star conditions of Sochi hotels, I could be talking about the fact that millions of people across the globe each day do not have clean water. Not just to wash their faces, but to drink.

North Americans spend millions, maybe billions, of dollars each year on water from plastic containers that are thrown away after one use.

Now that’s strange.

And doorknobs not working? It happens.

Every country does things a little differently. Right down to the doorknobs. And electrical outlets. In fact, toilets maybe flush a different direction. Or, maybe not at all.

And all of that is OK. In fact, it’s pretty cool. I would hate to think that athletes and spectators from all over the world travelled to Sochi in hopes of spending a few weeks in a place EXACTLY like their home country.

When it comes right down to it, Sochi is not the problem. It is me.

And maybe even you.

We are so passionate about all the “problems” of Sochi that we’re missing out.

Missing out on talking about Russia’s culture. Missing out on learning about the beautiful differences that makes Russia unique.

Missing out on being passionate about real issues. Not Bob Costas’ eye infection, but real issues like clean drinking water.

I understand the media coverage to an extent. I mean exposed electrical wiring in a hotel shower is nobody’s idea of a good time. I get it. But at the end of the day, Sochi is still not the problem. My clouded, ethnocentric cultural lens is.

And it’s time we all start talking about it.

Flickr photo (CC) courtesy of  Val 202