The Olympic Mythology

I can understand why Yevgeny Plyushchenko's silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics men's figure skating competition was such a huge disappointment for him and for the whole Russian team.  And although I generally try to stay clear of discussing sports events, let me say this: in the controversy between "without a quad, it's not men's figure skating, now it's dancing" and "it's called figure skating…not …figure jumping", I tend to support the latter statement.  In other words, I believe that Evan Lysacek has earned his gold.  

But this isn't why I'm writing this post.  Incredibly enough, another Russian has been dragged into the competition between Plyushchenko and Lysacek.  Who?  You bet: Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.  All Putin had to do to become a Vancouver Olympian was to congratulate Plyushchenko with his silver: "My sincere congratulations on your excellent performance at the XXI Olympic Winter Games.  Your silver is worth of gold.  You were able to overcome all the difficulties and obstacles to make a brave and gutsy move – to come back with brilliancy into big sports and to show the most difficult program on the Vancouver ice."

It turned out that some folks took offense with Putin's "your silver is worth of gold."  Why?  This is exactly what many parents in this country (including yours truly) tell their kids: it's your effort, not your mark that matters the most.  Would you prefer your kid's hard earned B+ to an A- for nothing?  (A rhetorical question, I guess, if your kid is going to apply to Harvard…).

But then the creative interpretation of Putin's words began.  The Washington Post's Tracee Hamilton reported: "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Plushenko's finish was worth a gold medal."   And Reuters'  Gennady Fyodorov (whose name suggests that he, in contrast to Hamilton, could read Putin's quote in the original) took it a step further:

"Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin climbed into the controversy surrounding Evgeni Plushenko's surprise defeat in the Olympics figure skating by claiming on Friday that he should have been awarded gold."

The headline of Fyodorov's article is even more creative: "Putin attacks Plushenko judging."

To me, the allusion that Putin attacks judging doesn't sound funny anymore.  I can almost see how judges who awarded Lysacek with the gold begin mysteriously dying.  You know: dioxin, polonium-210…

Vladimir Putin is obviously the world's most misquoted public figure.  Volumes have been written – and, I suppose, millions in fees were earned – about what he said about the "collapse" of the Soviet Union or the death of Anna Politkovskaya.  His Vancouver Olympics quote/misquote will go down the history as yet another example of the Western media-perpetrated political mythology. 

As I wrote recently: "…the West’s obsession with Putin’s persona (like ruminating over his K.G.B. background or deciphering the meaning of his bare-chest vacation pictures) sometimes borders on the irrational."  And yet, there is logic in this madness.  The fact of the matter is that Putin sells.  Attaching his name to a piece of "analysis" helps sell this questionable product as efficiently as attaching the name of another celebrity to a product that consumers would be reluctant to buy otherwise.   

So if you are a beginner or a seasonal political writer looking to jump-start your career, do this: type P-u-t-i-n, add colon, open quotation marks — and then write whatever you want.

What did Putin say? 

 

About Eugene Ivanov

Eugene Ivanov is a PMI-certified Innovation Management Consultant who helps organizations increase the efficiency of their internal and external innovation programs.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to The Olympic Mythology

  1. Another thought provoking gem of yours Eugene.
    The issue of selectively misquoting some and comparatively lax treatment towards what some others say is reflective of the ongoing biases. (The latter relates to a recent Open Democracy piece on Ukraine, which artistically and otherwise shouldn’t have been put on a pedestal.😉 )
    Note this piece:
    http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/02/19/what%E2%80%99s-the-games-without-a-figure-skating-scandal/
    Without checking further, I suspect that Plushenko might’ve been taken out of context. At this link, someone says he heard Plushenko say that his performance wasn’t up to snuff:
    http://eastern-european-forum.blogspot.com/2010/02/what-are-games-without-figure-skating.html
    Regarding these two links, Elvis Stojko’s comments reflect his own ability in the sport (athletic over the artistic).
    Men’s figure skating doesn’t seem to be at the same level it once was. Offhand, if I’m not mistaken – Kulik, Urmanov, Yagudin, Plushenko, Eldridge and Stojko were all competing at the same time, along with some other top performers.
    On another Olympic matter, USA men’s ice hockey is a pleasant surprise. Its future is looking good. A young team, with some top junior players coming up soon.

  2. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    Hard to disagree with your last paragaraph. However, it is Mr. Putin himself (or his imagemakers) are those adding fuel to the fire. Just think of Dr.Evil type picture on the cover of the Time magazine. Or a myriad of bare-chested pictures of him released to the public. I am a mean tough guy, don’t mess with me – that’s the message, presumably. Is any of this really necessary for the head of a G8 country? Good old Silvio is much more discreet…
    For all their faults, Western mass media are a fact of life globally. And the above examples are just play into the hands of those that you have been so relentlessly criticizing on your blog.
    Best wishes,
    Leo

  3. Should he take the Johnny Weir approach instead?
    Behind that question is the notion that some will find fault in just about whatever Russia does.
    This brings to mind an earlier sarcastically put thought about how if the Russians invented a cure for cancer, they’d get criticized for not having invented it sooner.

  4. poemless says:

    Thanks. I was a bit floored when I turned on the coverage Sat morning to find some commentator totally unhinged and telling Putin (no, really, looking into the camera and addressing “Mr. Putin”) “how about we take all the USSR golds and make them silvers?” It was truly bizarre. I took VVP’s words to have the kind of consoling meaning a parent’s might: “you’ll always be a winner in my eyes” kind of thing.
    That said, it seems Plushenko and his coach actually were doing some trash-talking. Even if they have a valid point about the judging system, it’s not good sportsmanship. Disappointing, really.

  5. I caught an idiotic suggestion that if Pluschenko didn’t win gold, he might face a thrashing back home.
    When the great wrestler Alexander Karelin was upset in an Olympic gold medal match, his post-Sovet Russian town greeted him with a miltary band.
    As noted by a Soviet coach, Brezhnev sympathetically told the 1980 silver medal Soviet men’s ice hockey team that upsets periodically happen in sports.
    In comparison, how well are many Canadians taking last night’s loss in men’s ice hockey? Likewise with the moaning over Sale & Pelletier at Salt Lake City in ’02.

  6. On not displaying the best of etiquette in Olympic figure skating, some might recall Nancy Kerrigan. Sir Charles Barkley had some Olympic moments as well. At the 1976 Olympics, Dwight Stones emphasized the rain as a main reason for his not winning gold in the men’s high jump. Like it wasn’t raining for the other competitors.
    This “whataboutism” point is made in reply to some commentary elsewhere, which suggests that such behavior is evident among just one group.

  7. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    Thanks for your comments. Nancy MacDonald’s piece is yet another case of creative quotation. Note how masterfully she composes the first sentence of her piece to make it sound like Putin “slammed” Lysacek’s gold.
    With all due respect, for me the Russians’ win over the Czechs was a “pleasant surprise.” Actually, figured it out without knowing the result — simply by the fact that Bob Costas was saying nothing🙂 Should the Czechs have won, 1968 would have been all over the place…
    Regards,
    Eugene

  8. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Leo,
    I feel we’re talking about different things. I’ve no idea why Putin’s imagemakers love his bare-chest pictures. Perhaps, for the same reason Obama’s imagemakers love his bare-chest pictures on Hawaiian beach. BWT, Obama is the head of a G8 country, too.
    My point was different. Putin didn’t complain to the IOC, nor did he publish an op-ed in the media criticizing the decision. No, he simply CONGRATULATED Plyushchenko with the silver — on his website (as he did with other Russian Olympians). Now, could you please explain me why someone following the figure skating competition should necessarily check Putin’s website? Do you consider this an accident that in the Fyodorov’s piece, Putin’s name appeared BEFORE Plyushchenko’s? I’d love to hear your opinion on this.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene
    p.s. My guess is that the photograph that took Putin’s “evil” picture worked for the Times. Or was the picture provided by Putin’s press service? Who is creating the image of a tough guy?

  9. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Dear Poemless,
    Anyone knowing Mishin (Plyushchenko’s coach) shouldn’t be surprised with his asshole behavior (my apology for the language). The fact that Plyushchenko is following the lead is, yes, disappointing.
    Kind Regards,
    Eugene

  10. Alex says:

    A good piece, Eugene! (even though I’m more in favor of Plyushenko’s pov :))
    Cheers

  11. Eugene
    Going into Sunday’s game, I felt more confident about Russia’s chances. I saw their loss to Slovensko as a slap in the face wakeup call.
    Since 1972, the best Olympic gold medal game (IMO) was the 1972 USSR-Czechoslovensko contest. With something like five minutes to go, the Czechoslovaks were up 3-2. The Soviets (overwhelmingly Russians) bounced back for a 4-3 win.
    Back then, some Canadian ice hockey chauvinists were rooting for the Soviets because they didn’t want to see another country making a claim of prowess in the sport in question. Regarding Canadian ice hockey: over the years, some Russian ice hockey personnel have appreciably noted less arrogance among their American peers. In more recent times, a greater mutual respect has developed. I think it’s great to see that there’s ice hockey talent to be found in a number of countries.
    As for 1968, many Czechs like Jaromir Jagr have a healthy attitude about it. From one of my recent mailings:
    Re: http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=518295
    Excerpt:
    Jagr wears 68 as a tribute to his grandfather, who died in prison when the Prague Spring was crushed by Soviet tanks in 1968. However, he plays in Russia and never misses a moment to laud the country.
    “I didn’t take the 68 against the Russians. I took the 68 against the Communists,” Jagr told NHL.com. “It’s a different story. It’s like if I would have 45 on a jersey and everybody would say you had it because of the Germans in the second war — no, it would be against the Nazis. I did it because of my grandfather. That’s why I did it.
    ****
    The linked article notes how Jagr enjoys playing in Russia for Avangard Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League
    I sense that many former Communist bloc non-Russians think like Jagr. In some circles, their views are underrepresented because they go against what’s being hustled.
    I’m a fan of this Czech lad:
    http://www.austereinsomniac.info/
    Regarding what you said of Plushenko’s coach, I’m reminded of Bela Karolyi.

  12. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    Let’s not waste keystrokes and bandwidth over the torsoes of certain G8 leaders, I should not have brought that up. As to Fedorov’s piece, I am not too sure what to make of it. It does not convey any message and the first passage is unrelated to the rest of the text, even to the translation of Putin’s words into English. Yes, some people who lost in the games may feel upset, but I suppose for Fedorov Putin is like a spice that can save an otherwise bland meal. Which brings me to the point I was trying to make earlier – that Putin is a celebrity with a stigma, a strongly negative one.
    Best wishes,
    Leo

  13. Leo says:

    Eugene,
    Let’s not waste keystrokes and bandwidth over the torsoes of certain G8 leaders, I should not have brought that up. As to Fedorov’s piece, I am not too sure what to make of it. It does not convey any message and the first passage is unrelated to the rest of the text, even to the translation of Putin’s words into English. Yes, some people who lost in the games may feel upset, but I suppose for Fedorov Putin is like a spice that can save an otherwise bland meal. Which brings me to the point I was trying to make earlier – that Putin is a celebrity with a stigma, a strongly negative one.
    Best wishes,
    Leo

  14. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Alex,
    I agree to diasagree with you on that🙂
    I simply remember that when the Chinese couples first appeared on the world stage with their solid jumps and somewhat wooden lifts, the Russians complained that their marks were too high for “figure skating.” As always, no matter when you say something, this something will haunt you some day…
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  15. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Thanks Alex,
    I agree to diasagree with you on that🙂
    I simply remember that when the Chinese couples first appeared on the world stage with their solid jumps and somewhat wooden lifts, the Russians complained that their marks were too high for “figure skating.” As always, no matter when you say something, this something will haunt you some day…
    Cheers,
    Eugene

  16. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    As I know, Jagr is the most poplular and admired (and, apparently, handsomely paid) man in Omsk. It’s only natural that a good guy as he is returns favor.
    Regards,
    Eugene

  17. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Mike,
    As I know, Jagr is the most poplular and admired (and, apparently, handsomely paid) man in Omsk. It’s only natural that a good guy as he is returns favor.
    Regards,
    Eugene

  18. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Leo,
    Totally agreed. To me your line “Putin is like a spice that can save an otherwise bland meal” sounds as just another way to say what I said. The same goes for Putin being a “celebrity.”
    As for the polarity of Putin’s charge, that’s a matter of taste. In the West, it’s negative; in Russia, it’s positive. Let’s not forget, however, that he’s a Russian leader, so what the West thinks about him should — by definition — carry less weight.
    Thanks for the great as usual exchange.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  19. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Leo,
    Totally agreed. To me your line “Putin is like a spice that can save an otherwise bland meal” sounds as just another way to say what I said. The same goes for Putin being a “celebrity.”
    As for the polarity of Putin’s charge, that’s a matter of taste. In the West, it’s negative; in Russia, it’s positive. Let’s not forget, however, that he’s a Russian leader, so what the West thinks about him should — by definition — carry less weight.
    Thanks for the great as usual exchange.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  20. Eugene
    As you know, besides sports (particularly men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s basketball), post-Soviet Russia has other areas which have attracted a good number of non-Russians.
    Best,
    Mike

  21. Eugene
    As you know, besides sports (particularly men’s ice hockey, men’s and women’s basketball), post-Soviet Russia has other areas which have attracted a good number of non-Russians.
    Best,
    Mike

  22. Speaking as a Canadian as regards hockey, it used to be “Our Canadians can beat your Canadians”.
    Now, I fear, it’s “Our Russians can beat your Russians”.
    Faugh! Hockey hasn’t been the same since the NHL expanded when ALL players were Canadians and any scratch team from Flin-Flon could dominate the Olympics.

  23. Eugene Ivanov says:

    Patrick,
    Globalization! When I heard that Anastazia Kuzmina had won women’s 7.5 km biathlon, I was naturally surprised that this medal wasn’t added to the Russian team’s count. Until I realized that she races for Slovakia now.
    And some folks in Russia already demand (half-jokingly at the moment, but that may change) that all Russian (or “Russian-speaking” as I love to say these days:) coaches working with American and Canadian ice dance couples returned back to Russia.
    Paraphrazing one of my favorite Russian “bards” (Oleg Mityaev), sports is a little real life.
    Best Regards,
    Eugene

  24. Such sports globalization is everywhere folks.
    An American coached the last Russian men’s Olympic basketball team with another playing on it. The last Russian Olympic women’s basketball team had an American on its roster as well.
    The 2010 men’s Olympic ice hockey team is coached by the Canadian born Ron Wilson. Jean Paul Parise’s son Zack plays on Team USA. Jean Paul played for Team Canada in the memorable “Summit Series” in 1972. The son of legendary Slovak player Anton Stastny plays on Team USA as well. Canadians serve or have served as coaches for several national ice hockey teams including “neo-Soviet” Belarus.
    Canada is said to have the deepest pool of ice hockey talent. That’s no surprise given the number of Canadians playing organized ice hockey in comparison to others:
    http://www.russiablog.org/2007/12/missives_about_russian_ice_hoc.php
    Tonight 7 PM North American eastern time is Canada-Russia, aired on CNBC. After that game, come the Finland-Czech Republic and Sweden-Slovakia games.
    The US-Switzerland game is at 3 PM on NBC.
    Best,
    Mike

  25. CORRECTION
    It’s Peter’s (not Anton’s) son Paul who plays on Team USA.
    Back in the day, the Stastny brothers (Peter, Anton and Marian) were Slovak stars on the Czechoslovak national team.
    Salut!
    Mike

  26. buy viagra says:

    The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th century forced the IOC to adapt the Games to the world’s changing social circumstances. Some of these adjustments included the creation of the Winter Games for ice and snow sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical disabilities, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. The IOC also had to accommodate the Games to the varying economical, political, and technological realities of the 20th century. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allow participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of the mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games.

  27. buy viagra says:

    The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th century forced the IOC to adapt the Games to the world’s changing social circumstances. Some of these adjustments included the creation of the Winter Games for ice and snow sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical disabilities, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. The IOC also had to accommodate the Games to the varying economical, political, and technological realities of the 20th century. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allow participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of the mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games.

  28. buy viagra says:

    The evolution of the Olympic Movement during the 20th century forced the IOC to adapt the Games to the world’s changing social circumstances. Some of these adjustments included the creation of the Winter Games for ice and snow sports, the Paralympic Games for athletes with physical disabilities, and the Youth Olympic Games for teenage athletes. The IOC also had to accommodate the Games to the varying economical, political, and technological realities of the 20th century. As a result, the Olympics shifted away from pure amateurism, as envisioned by Coubertin, to allow participation of professional athletes. The growing importance of the mass media created the issue of corporate sponsorship and commercialization of the Games.

  29. Official sites like Olympic.org and Vancouver 2010 are good sources of information about the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. There are many other sources of news, e.g., “2010 Winter Games” (Vancouver Sun), “Vancouver Games” (CNN), and “Winter Olympics” (Telegraph). Not surprisingly, news sources in most countries give fullest coverage to their own athletes.
    Comprehensive works about the Winter Olympic Games are classed in 796.98 Winter Olympic games, e.g., The Winter Olympics and The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics.

  30. Official sites like Olympic.org and Vancouver 2010 are good sources of information about the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. There are many other sources of news, e.g., “2010 Winter Games” (Vancouver Sun), “Vancouver Games” (CNN), and “Winter Olympics” (Telegraph). Not surprisingly, news sources in most countries give fullest coverage to their own athletes.
    Comprehensive works about the Winter Olympic Games are classed in 796.98 Winter Olympic games, e.g., The Winter Olympics and The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics.

  31. Olympic games are like an athlete graduation, regardless of which discipline.

  32. Olympic games are like an athlete graduation, regardless of which discipline.

  33. Olympic games form a major part in sports.The person winning a medal in olympic games is a legend in that sport.
    The top most respect that a player can have is in olmpics.

  34. Well Done
    I would like to appreciate the great work done by You

  35. …it is impossible for the Reagan generation to provide any reputable resolve but rather the generations not yet born who will understand Ronald Reagan as
    a true traitor to the People…

  36. oh interesting! that’s quite an information there and i think it IS a site that is to be reckoned with if you own a small business and you need to be
    on top of what people are saying about you now.

  37. As I said TAO, I feel sorry for you if you cannot distinguish the two concepts of “reasonable” and “correct.” You really do believe in Natural Law!

  38. What an idea,
    Great tips, I would like to join your blog anyway,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s