By Ben Huberman
While millions turn their eyes to the Russian resort town for today’s opening ceremony, the Sochi Olympics have been on the minds of many for months — especially those competing for a spot on a national team. We’re thrilled that so many participating athletes have chosen to share their stories — from the grueling to the inspiring — on their WordPress.com blogs.
Inside the Olympic Village
Sochi 2014 promises to be the most social-media friendly Olympics to date, with thousands of smartphone-wielding athletes tweeting and instagramming every triple-axle jump and half-pipe trick. Many have also been blogging about their experiences, charting their path from Olympic hopefuls to bonafide Olympians.
Our blog-keeping Olympians include biathletes like Australian Alex Almoukov and American Susan Dunklee — check out Susan’s behind-the-scenes post on getting processed by the American delegation upon arrival in Sochi.
“Just like so many athletes, I have dreamed about the Olympics for more years than I’d like to admit. […] To finally have met the requirements and be given the opportunity which very few receive means so much.”
– Callum Watson, cross-country skier, Team Australia
Irish cross-country skier Jan Rossiter has also kept his fans up to date. He’ll soon be competing against fellow bloggers (and cross-country skiers) Callum Watson and Phillip Bellingham from Australia, and Callum Smith from Team Great Britain.
Other sports are also represented by athlete-bloggers — from Canadian speed skater Alec Janssens to New Zealand alpine skier Adam Barwood. In fact, entire teams have made their home here, including the US speed skating team, and the entire delegation of Team Canada, a WordPress.com VIP partner.
No Olympic Games are ever about sports alone — especially not this year, when the run-up to Sochi has been beset by controversy. Russia’s vehemently anti-LGBT legislation from last year has dominated the debate, with critical voices weighing the best ways to respond.
“I, for one, look forward to seeing the USA Hockey Team standing on the medal platform wearing both Olympic Gold and rainbow ribbons.”
– The Sports Ethicist, philosopher Shawn E. Klein
Others sought to explain the political calculations behind these laws, while one (anonymous) blogger, a gay member of the US Olympic Team, writes about his conflicted feelings now that he’s traveling in a country where his sexual orientation can put him at risk.
As a writer on the Caucasus region makes clear, last year’s discriminatory laws are but one of the issues that threaten to cast a shadow over the games. In an informative post, this blogger lists a number of human rights and environmental concerns that should also worry the international community.
Personal angles, near and far
As a media-dominating juggernaut, the Olympic Games attract commentary from a dizzying variety of perspectives. From a critique of Sochi-inspired advertising to breaking news on a mesmerizing, mariachi-style ski suit, bloggers are leaving no snowflake unturned. Just in the final days leading to the opening ceremony, many have chimed in on #SochiProblems — the half-bizarre, half-comic infrastructure issues encountered by visiting journalists — as well as on the brewing backlash against these complaints.
On the ground in Sochi, too, WordPress.com bloggers are reporting around the clock. Freelance journalist Nina Zietman sends regular dispatches accompanied by gorgeous photos of the various venues, while Rachel Oakes-Ash, the blogger behind Miss Snow It All, writes about topics as varied as the snowboard slopeside event and the Australian opening ceremony uniforms.
It’s going to be an eventful few weeks — winter-sports lovers will be glued to their screens (and their blogs) through March 16, when the Paralympics draw to a close. Be sure to follow the Sochi and Olympics topic pages for the latest posts (and don’t forget specific sports’ pages, too — luge, hockey, or figure skating, anyone?).
Citius, altius, fortius!