In honor of a great gold medal game, a photo taken right after the USA tied Canada near the end of regulation time in a thriller won by Canada.
English language mass media has had a plethora of articles on the above entitled subject. Forwarded to me by a friend, one such article from Time Magazine is entitled "Russia's 'Nightmare' Olympics: The Glory Days are Over." To quote Yogi Berra "It ain't over till it's over." There will be other Olympics.
If I correctly recall, when the Russian delegation marched into the opening ceremony of the recently completed Olympiad, Bob Costas said that some Russians predicted a Russian medal tally of anywhere between thirty and forty. Sports Illustrated projected Russia finishing ninth among nations, with twenty two medals medals. Russia ended up sixth, with fifteen medals.
Unreasonably high expectations can contribute to the sort of finger pointing backlash which is evident in Russia. The Russian men's Olympic ice hockey team's humiliating 7-3 loss to Canada in a quarter-final game especially stands out.
Russia's overall performance in Vancouver reflects a decline that is noticeable, but perhaps not so sudden as some suggest. The Soviet Union topped the medal chart in its final Winter Olympic appearance in 1988. Its successor Unified Team finished second in 1992. In subsequent Winter Olympiads, the Russian team finished third in 1994 (with the most gold medals), third in 1998, fifth in 2002 and fourth in 2006. As a bit of an aside: when compared to the Winter Olympics, the Soviet Union, Unified Team and Russia have fared better in Summer Olympiads.
Four years from now in Sochi, is it reasonable to expect Russia to finish within the top five nations in medals won, with a good prospect for further gains in future Olympiads? My immediate gut reaction is yes. Meantime, the calls for personnel and other structural changes within the Russian Olympic Committee should be carefully studies and implemented.
Russian men's Olympic ice hockey coach Vyacheslav Bykov has come under criticism. In his team's loss to Canada, he made some questionable moves. Like players, coaches can have bad games. At around the midway point of the past National Football League season, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and quarterback Mark Sanchez were criticized as their team faltered. The Jets finished the season strong, with Ryan and Sanchez becoming more popular among Jets fans. A coaching change should fully consider whether that is really needed to improve the team. Another factor to consider is the available coaches.
The behavior of Russian Olympians is a public relations concern. Good sportsmanship and the lack thereof can be found throughout the world. Some will magnify Russian fault lines to suit their own biases. The Action Ukraine Report # 953 of February 26 lists a total of twenty two articles. All but one of them are about Ukraine. The lone exception is a National Review piece entitled "Whining Russians, an Olympic Microcosm." In line with the slant of its title, this article discusses Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, among other things. At his blog, Eugene Ivanov gives a different perspective on the same topic, under the title of "The Olympic Mythology." In fairness, the Action Ukraine Report has previously run articles which reflect mainstream Russian views.
Michael Averko is a New York based independent foreign policy analyst and media critic.