The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi are under way, with gold medals and cultural misunderstandings a-flying. While these games have been off to a more… bizarre… start than others, they have fulfilled the usual requirements for the Olympics: weird Opening Ceremony outfits, civil rights breaches, and half-naked athletes. They also are the first games since The Hunger Games franchise has taken off, with two of three books converted into absurdly popular movies and a third on the way. As I watch the Sochi Olympics over a glass (read: bottle or two) of Sauvignon Blanc, I’ve found myself repeatedly asking, are the Sochi Olympics strikingly similar to The Hunger Games or is it just me? Case in point:
Opening Ceremony Attire
In The Hunger Games, each district’s tributes are introduced to the public in a magnificent display of district pride through themed outfits, with capitol officials looking on. Outfits incorporate the colors and notable products from each district, so tributes end up wearing outfits made out of lumber and coal. Sound familiar? This year’s Olympic ceremony included not only capitol-worthy escorts for each country (complete with snowflake hats), but also overly literal outfits. Guess what the athletes from Bermuda wore. And really, USA? We couldn’t do better than red, white, and blue ugly Christmas sweaters?
President Snow of the Capitol and President Putin of Russia both have hobbies that you normally wouldn’t see on a resume. Snow maintains a creepy rose garden and frequently appears in people’s homes to personally deliver death threats. Putin is seen shirtless a weird amount for a world leader, and is characterized as the second coming of Chuck Norris. Aside from having strange hobbies in common, both Snow and Putin preside over their respective competitions with an ever-watchful eye.
Each Hunger Games event is hosted by Caesar Flickerman, a man with a blue ponytail and terrifyingly white teeth. The man interviews each tribute before the games, and recaps the events with the champion afterward. Despite the gruesome reality of the games, Caesar meets most interactions with an insane laugh and blinding smile. In the Sochi Olympics, the United States is lacking in blue hair, but does have a close second in pink eyes. Cue Bob Costas. The legendary announcer is known as one of the best in the industry, but the infamous #sochiproblems seem to have taken a toll on his face. Costas has been battling a nasty eye infection during the games, which has resulted in a swollen eye that is slowly spreading across half of his face. Ouch.
Certain athletes, tributes, countries, and districts have formulated a name for themselves in their respective games. In The Hunger Games, it’s the capitol careers: the tributes who have trained their entire lives for these games, who are almost guaranteed to win. In Sochi, it’s the athletes that we see returning from year to year. Snowboarder Shaun White seems to have taken the cake as this year’s star athlete, but we’re sure to have a few new America’s Sweethearts starring in our McDonald’s commercials soon enough.
Three words: Jamaican Bobsled team. If you haven’t heard about how there’s basically a real-life sequel to Cool Runnings happening in Sochi right now, there is something seriously wrong with your life. The Jamaican Bobsled team actually qualified for the winter Olympics this year, which is no simple feat. The best part? The team couldn’t afford to actually attend the Olympics, so their travel fees were all fundraised through individual donations on Kickstarter. This is one sport where I won’t be cheering for Team USA, much like how almost every district ended up cheering for Katniss and Peeta almost immediately in the Hunger Games. District 12 is shooting arrows at judges and painting cakes? Sold.
The entire reason why Katniss can’t stay out of the spotlight for three books’ worth of Hunger Games is because she’s a symbol of an underlying cause. Only the idiots in the capitol actually believe that The Hunger Games take place for entertainment’s sake. Every other district is committing to a full-on revolution. In both The Hunger Games arena and Sochi Olympic stadium, there will never be an explicit statement about a larger cause, but it is on the lips of everyone involved. You can’t talk about Sochi at any length without mentioning gay rights issues – unless you’re an official Sochi outlet.
In a horrendous turn of events, reports started circulating that stray dogs were being killed off in Sochi. These dogs are seen as a daily part of the city, much as pigeons or birds are in the United States. City officials decided otherwise, though, and attempted to quell the creatures before Sochi was put on the world stage. The Hunger Games also combined the words “horrendous” and “dogs,” but in a way that manufactured terrifying beasts whose sole purpose is to kill tributes. I’d opt for Sochi’s strays any day.
Throwing athletes together from the literally every corner of the globe results in an epic mashup of cultures and languages. On the less offensive end of the spectrum we have German bobsleigher Cathleen Martini (if we were friends I’d absolutely call her “Cathleenie Martini”) and Argentinian alpine skier Macarena Birkner (EEEEEY MACARENA). My personal favorites are Swiss cross-country skier Seraina Boner (tee-hee) and Russian short track athlete Semen Elistratov. And these are all legitimate, real-life names. It’s no surprise that an author of fictional novels would include at least one hidden joke: Katniss + Peeta = Peeniss.
For all you Hunger Games aficionados out there cheering on Team USA (or the Jamaican Bobsled team), may the odds be ever in your favor!