Guest column: Does anybody care about the Olympics?

By Jana LeBlanc
February 06, 2014

(Editor's Note — Jana (Childres) LeBlanc graduated from McPherson High School in 1980, where she was the sports editor and photo editor of the school newspaper "The High Life" under the tutelage National High School Journalism Teacher of Year, Jackie Engel. 

She won a William Allen White Award in Journalism for her sports column "Beyond the Score" and placed second in Sports Feature Writing at the Kansas State Scholastic Press Association Awards. She also interned at "The McPherson Sentinel" with Sports Editor Steve Sell. She lettered in cross country and track at MHS and was one of the first female members of the school's organization for lettermen, "The M Club.” 

Jana graduated with a BS in Medical Technology from The University of Kansas in 1984. She currently lives and works in Lenexa. From time to time she is going to provide sports commentary for our website.)

Is anyone actually looking forward to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi? 

The negative tone of the headlines in the few weeks prior to the games highlight the potential for disaster and the disgust for the excess, corruption and intolerance of the Vladimir Putin regime and these games, his pet project. The selection of our own athletes for the U.S. Olympic team has come into question. There is no Kristi Yamaguchi or Apolo Ohno this year to capture our fancy. These games seem to be more about what can go wrong than what might go right.

Russia has spent $51 billion on these 2014 Olympic Games. The previous Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada, cost $7 billion to stage. Russia is spending more than $2 billion on security alone, blanketing the city of Sochi with 40,000 troops. Two recent suicide bombings by Islamic extremists in the region have made security of the Sochi games a top priority. American Olympic athletes have even been advised that they should discourage family members from attending their performances. 

The construction of the Olympic venues themselves has also come under scrutiny. The Russian oligarchy won most of the awards for construction of the Olympic venues and questions have been asked as to the structural soundness of the venues hosting the sports of these games. It has been speculated that there is a chance that some of the structures might collapse due to poor building materials.

The repression and persecution of homosexuals by the Putin regime has been another topic on the forefront of these games. While many countries such as the United States and Australia have recently allowed same-sex marriages, the Russian government has continued to persecute and fine people "in relations not conductive to procreation.” I can't wait to see Johnny Weir in Sochi. I think it is very brave of him to even make the trip.

Then there are the U.S. team controversies. Lolo Jones, America’s sweetheart hurdler who fell in the 2008 Summer Olympics, made the U.S. bobsled team over more experienced pushers like Emily Azevedo and Katie Eberling. Fourth-place women's figure skater Ashley Wagner was chosen for the U.S. Olympic Team over third-place finisher Mirai Nagasu. In 2010  Nagasu finished fourth at the Vancouver Winter Olympics. In the past that fourth-place finish seemed to mean gold in the next Olympics if the competitor was young. I guess we will never know.

So why watch the 2014 Winter Olympics at all? Read my next column and I will tell you why! Happy reading!


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