Tech Watch: #SochiProblems

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014 at 6:56 AM

If you use any social media platform, you’ve likely already seen #SochiProblems. Every time I refresh my Twitter feed, I see something new about the 2014 Winter Olympics being held this time Sochi, Russia.

So if you’re like me and are following the Olympic updates, you’re likely seeing the barrage of posts about how mismanaged the event is more often than updates on the medal count. But if you haven’t seen the pictures of “dangerous water,” electrical fixtures hanging out of showers, or the hordes of stray dogs, on Twitter, just search @SochiProblems, #Sochi, #Olympics… the list seems to be never-ending. 

Here’s the thing: social media is changing how we experience the Winter Olympics because it allows for fans to get an inside look at the event – in real time. As many now know, the organizers at Sochi were unprepared and conditions seem severely lacking, considering the $50 billion price tag the event came with.

But at least some of those who are at Sochi to compete have managed to humorize the situation for us.

One athlete, bobsledder Johnny Quinn, first got stuck in his bathroom when the door became jammed. The Olympian put his Olympic preparation to work by using his bobsled push training to break out, only to get stuck in an elevator just two days later. Quinn quickly became an Internet sensation by joining in on the hashtag #SochiProblems, which is still a trending topic on Twitter. Quinn even got some shout outs from celebrities, including William Shatner on Twitter.

But why are we shocked about the conditions? Sochi was expected to be extravagant and well-managed, especially with those $50 million price tag that came with the event. CNBC reported, “the price tag for the Sochi Games? $50 billion, making Sochi the most expensive games in history.” In fact, that’s more expensive than all other Winter Olympics to date combined.

With that high of a budget, one would think that having a working door and clean water would be a given.

After media finally moved on from the security concerns and the accidental Olympic ring malfunction at the Opening Ceremony, there were hopes that maybe people would start focusing on the athletes and their sports. But then snow started to melt and turn to slush. Now athletes have been the ones voicing concerns about the condition of the course, both on social media and through journalists, with the snowboarding half pipe being one of the main concerns.

American Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic medalist told USA Today, “It is a little dangerous, I saw more people fall today than I have all season. It’s just dangerous because it’s crappy…”

Teter even took to Twitter about her concerns for the halfpipe, calling it the “sketchiest halfpipe finals” she’d seen in “a long time.”

Shaun White, another two-time Olympics snowboarding champion had injured his wrist on the snowboard slopestyle course and decided to drop out of that competition and focus on the halfpipe. White had also expressed concerns about how tough the conditions were, and it showed in White’s performance when he failed to medal in an event he won in the past two Olympics, placing fourth in the halfpipe competition.

Aside from the safety concerns and the tweeting, the 2014 Winter Olympics has broken real ground, with twelve new events making their debut, including the ski halfpipe (men’s and women’s), ski slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard slopestyle (men’s and women’s), snowboard parallel slalom, women’s ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, a new figure skating team event, and luge team relay.

The saddest part about #SochiProblems is how much it has taken away from these new events and the making of history with women competing in ski jumping for the first time – which is what should be getting the lion’s share of coverage. Instead, many of the articles on athletes have been overshadowed by the missing doorknobs and “dangerous” water.

With less than a week left in the games, let’s hope social media focuses on the athletes and their performances.

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