Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter is Coming...

...and by "winter", I mean the Winter Olympics in Sochi. There are less than three weeks left. [I hear the fans of the "Game of Thrones" might have to wait a little longer.]

And although every nation, small and big -- but especially big -- is gearing up to demonstrate to the world how much wonder and awe their very own athletes can inspire, the real charm offensive is expected to be put up by Russia. As the host of the 22nd Winter Olympics, the public diplomacy stage is all Russia's to take. How successful it all is or will be, I'll try and address at some other point. At the moment, though, I just wanted to highlight *some* of the media hype [there's more; much more...].

I'm not into sports, especially the winter ones. The only bit I'd care to watch is, perhaps, the figure skating. Yet, I've been having a blast observing some of the ways various countries -- and media -- are trying to present their super-human athletes, along with the amazing work they'll be doing, covering Sochi and the Olympics.

Here's an example from NBC, the Official "Broadcaster" of the Winter Olympics here, in the US:

Then, the mandatory "Welcome to Sochi" clip, with more highlights of the "tough slopes" [kudos, for highlighting the Caucasus Mountains!] and how the amazing American athletes - who inspire wonder and awe - plan to handle the challenge:

And a final clip from NBC -- a tribute to vodka. Russian vodka. Because, although there might not be much that the American viewer can relate to in that vast country, they can at least recognize the "Russkiy Standard" and find some interest is sitting through three minutes of an introduction.

Ah yes, but I forget: vodka comprises an integral part of Russia's image. Why not use it for public diplomacy purposes, as well...?

In terms of the Organizers themselves, there's the boring Official YouTube page, featuring mini-documentaries about the wonderful facilities built by the host. The videos are in Russian, with an impossibly fast running stream of the subtitles in the bottom. Although they do feature the amazing Russian athletes (past and present) here and there, for some reason they don't inspire wonder and awe. Here's an example:

To highlight all the care Russians took to prepare for the games, there's a special video dedicated to the medals, too:

To drive the point home even better, they produced the following video of all the major buildings and centers. Amazing architecture, wouldn't you say? No wonder it cost more than $50 billion...

Finally, if there were a competition between the various Olympic promos, the Gold would certainly go to that produced by the BBC.

Here are the TRUE athletes inspiring awe, wonder... and fear. I was half expecting Gandalf to show up at some point, followed by the Mountain King and his crew of Dwarves... but since they never do, I'll just complete the picture here, for you:

The BBC video also goes to who show that the production crew might have issues with geography, because no matter how big and scary the Caucasus range might be, after all, the games will be taking place in Sochi, and their imagined weather will be very hard to come by... [for better or worse, this is one thing Putin might not have a say over.]

Again, this is just a very brief intro to some of the most recent video specials. Many more will come, I'm sure, between now and February 7, followed by the culmination -- the actual sports. Yet, as teams prepare, awe the international public, and instill fear and panic in their rivals, I can't help but laugh at the spectacle. Perhaps I've been reading too much Hunger Games lately, but what is Olympics if not yet another real-world example of "panem et circenses"?


P.S. -- Nike decided to capitalize on the hype and came up with its very own Russia-themed commercial. Note the old cars, the crumbling infrastructure, all the crazy drunk men... and the snow. Priceless!

UPDATE [1.20.2014]: I received a request to include the following video here, too. It's a parody of the Nike commercial, incorporating some real footage from Russia, adding a little more sincerity to the whole thing. And yes, making it even more fun. Enjoy!