To Russia With Love… An Ibex Ode to the XXII Winter Olympic Games

Oh Sochi, you had me at vodka.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not entirely that shallow. The Olympics hold a special place in my heart – one of the few things above pot-shot sarcasm and immune to cynicism. With no regard for nationality, my allegiance is to sport and to the athletes who hold strong to their Olympic dreams regardless of what they need to overcome. Still, I admit an unexpected rush of American pride whacks me over the head every time someone in our red, white and blue steps up for their Olympic moment.

I’m not fun to watch the Games with. I weep at every personal interest story. My heart races and I gasp audibly – involuntarily – at every wobble and triumph. You can tell me a million times the realities of what it takes to put on this spectacle, but I’ll only hear the parts about spreading cooperation, understanding and excellence through the love of sport.

So yes, Russia: thank you for making it socially acceptable – nay, culturally respectable – to drink your delightful distilled elixir while cheering, weeping and high-fiving other couch-bound fans in front of a television. At least I can blame my emotional roller coaster on the drink.

With the Games still in the first week, we can collectively turn the tide from negativity to optimism.

Let’s stop talking about the hotel rooms and construction snafus. Sorry, journalists. Just because you have the Twitter technology to broadcast your experience in real time, doesn’t mean that you’re the Gonzo media for a new age. You’re in Sochi to report on the Olympics. Your personal inconvenience is not more important. That orange water story is pertinent, but moreso to the citizens of Sochi than to the extra few bucks you had to spend on bottled water.

And let’s start talking more about athletes like the Canadian freestyle skier who gives full credit to his special needs brother for inspiring him every day. It’s not just an honor to make it to the elite levels of sport; it is indeed a privilege. Let Super Bowl champions brag about their toughness. Let Olympic champions inspire us with their humility.

Thank you, Sochi, for not getting wrapped in the complaints and the pettiness. Thank you for providing a venue for the world’s best athletes to keep that little fire alive inside of each of us. That small spark of what we’re capable of accomplishing can be quite vulnerable. The Olympics – or at least the way I choose to believe in them – gives fuel and strength to that fire.

The XXII Winter Olympics have only just begun, but we already love you, Sochi. We love you for keeping people safe and for doing the best you can. That’s all we ask. Well, that, and for one of those awesome furry hats and a shot of pure Russian vodka.

Chtob vse byli zdorovy!

(Cheers to good health, in Russian)