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Cultural Reflections on the Sochi Games

Evelina Silveira, President Diversity at Work in London Inc.

Before the Sochi games even started, the Putin government was internationally chastised for Russia’s anti-gay legislation, its toileting facilities, corruption and delayed construction. All of this caused a media frenzy reminding me in many ways of the Cold War propaganda machines that were ever so present in the 198o’s. I wonder if things would ever change between the East and the West? It seems at times that it hasn’t.

Throughout the games, it was hard for me to take off my diversity hat. CBC reporter Ian Hanomansing whose sensitivity I usually admire, appeared surprised by his “Hilton hotel” equivalent, remarking how the plumbing was working and his room was clean. I asked myself: Is there any reason why Sochi would provide dirty rooms without adequate plumbing in their hotels for its visitors? Ian, you let me down!

Don Cherry never shocks me. He said that when he came to Sochi he was expecting to see old ladies sweeping the streets and was remarkably surprised to find out that it was a lot like Mississauga! Presumably he was referring to Sochi’s modernity. Then he went on to talk about how Russian players having no character.

All in all the games were a huge success and a real testament to the reason why cultural exchanges are important. While there were some blips with cultural sensitivity from the CBC standpoint, my Russian friends said they did a much better and balanced job than the American reporters. We need more exchanges.

In any case, my diversity lens was with me through the closing ceremony. Noting what seemed to be a lack of racial diversity in the performers despite some very significant minority populations living in Russia. I could not help but surmise that the “New Russia” does not include minorities.

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