The Russian Men’s Olympic hockey team imploded against the Finns this past week.
High priced talent like Ovechkin, Malkin and others complete with a spanking new multi-billion dollar facility failed to deliver.
Complicated with the fact that Ovechkin was the face of the Putin Sochi Winter Games.
It didn’t work.
For whatever reason.
Here’s my take.
It strikes me that for Russians, the chase, catch & show are everything.
Whether in hockey or geo-politics.
Trying to explain to a non-Slav what this looks like boils down to the following personal perspective.
Loss of face and perceived public embarrassment are to be avoided at all cost.
So its not the fear of potential domestic terrorists threatening the Olympics.
Quite the contrary.
The Soviets (oops Russians) can deal with this very well with its high level security operations.
Rather, the real fear is global embarrassment that threatens Russia’s reputation and brand.
Forget the double toilets, bobsledders busting out bathroom doors or poorly translated menus.
Chalk that up to the business of getting ready.
Instead, remember the the Olympic ring that didn’t open, former Olympic Champion figure skater Genia Plushenko pulled out of the men’s final, and the Russian men’s hockey team lost with the face of Sochi, Ovechkin, leading the pack.
In a culture where machoism fuelled by vodka thrives, ironically its the women who pose the biggest challenge to Russia’s reputation, whether they choose to or not.
Like Pussy Riot, deliberate and determined to exploit the best of Sochi, and succeeded in being filmed whipped by Cossacks hired to protect the populace, and taken away for prosecution.
Like controversy surrounding the judging of the women’s figure skating final with the 2014 gold medal winner figure skater Russian teenager Adelina Sotnikova, through no fault of her own.
Like remaining legislatively blind to the existence of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within Russian borders competing in the Olympics, possibly even on the Russian team, as legal persons.
Culture plays a huge role in geo-politics.
Wielded as a strategic, political weapon.
This is nothing new in the history of the world.
But the problem for historical and modern governments, is that no matter what you try and do, you cannot control it.
And that, is culture’s greatest strength.
So it will be very interesting to see the Russian’s showcase culture during the Sochi Closing Ceremonies on February 23, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. EST.
And it will be very curious to see what culture the world sees.
Go Canada Go.