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The Problem With Sochi

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The 2014 Winter Olympics have finally come to a close in Sochi, Russia. The circus tents are packing up, the clowns and ringmasters are heading back to their day jobs, and I ask myself -- what have I learned from this epic spectacle? What have I learned about the guiding principle of politically free sport, bringing nations together in peace and harmony under the benevolent hand of the IOC?

I've learned there is a problem with Sochi.

The problem with Sochi is graft and corruption to the tune of over $45billion (U.S.), human rights protests forced eight miles out of town (if you can even get a permit), residents evicted while their dogs are rounded up and killed, and the sheer hubris of trying to create snow in a sub-tropical climate zone.

The problem with Sochi is rioting in the streets and plazas of Kiev, hundreds killed by police firing live ammunition, political prisoners finally freed from their jail cells, and a puppet president caught on tape literally running from his opulent mansion -- a mansion filled with gold leaf and excess on a scale Liberace would have shaken his head at.

The problem with Sochi is bills in Kansas and Arizona that would reinstitute Jim Crow segregation under the guise of "religious freedom," undefined "terrorist combatants" interned at Guantanamo while they wait and see if they're ever charged with anything, the promise of "hope and change" smothered by the reality of "business as usual," and Walmart slowly realizing that paying its workers less than minimum wage while also cutting support for food stamps means no one can afford to buy anything.

The problem with Sochi is hundreds upon hundreds of dead migrant workers in Qatar after slaving away on modern day World Cup pyramids, protests in Brazil over billions in taxpayer money spent on entertainment infrastructure and not city development, and American cities publicly financing stadiums for the multibillion dollar NFL while education and science programs keep slowly dwindling.

The problem with Sochi?

It's us. Humanity, the whole reeking, unwashed lot, barely 10 thousand years removed from living in caves.

The sheer amount of people whose only Olympic care is how glittering the gold, and don't even notice that Pussy Riot punk girls are publicly whipped in the street by fur-hatted Cossacks. The mindless masses who clap and cheer as McDonald's emblazoned security guards cradle their AKs and watch for protestors and dissidents, nervously aware of Chechnyan suicide bombers driven by a mix of fundamentalist hate and oppression. The millions enthralled by the magic of television, a glossy veneer of perfection that quickly collapses once you zoom the lens out to include the whole picture.

The problem with Sochi?

It's the banks and moneylenders financing our bread and circuses, the jingoistic announcers broadcasting through our video walls, the soma manufacturers peddling their wares to drown out that awful din of a world slowly cracking under the weight of those with power doing what they want to those without, and then all these upstanding contributors to humanity wondering why another Venezuelan protest or Arab Spring or Occupy movement springs up underfoot.

It's every short-sighted consumer who says, "I just watch it for the athletes," or "Why are you trying to make me feel guilty about this, why can't I just enjoy it," or even "It's just sports, keep politics out of it," -- yet you watch, and you buy, and you support the entire rotting edifice time and time again.

Politics is already in your sports. Your demand put it there.

So, we can shake our heads and decry the awfulness of it all, rub our hands in guilt and sorrow over the tragedies of the world, but until we accept the fact that we are the ones who perpetuate this cycle, by demanding our entertainment no matter what the cost, well, nothing is going to change.

Enjoy the closing ceremony. I'm sure it'll be a spectacle. Everything is, in Sochi.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post in conjunction with the Sochi 2014 Olympics. The series is part of our Impact Sports initiative, which examines the intersection of sports and social good. Many of the posts in this series critique the Russian government's draconian anti-LGBT laws, though other topics include climate change and censorship. Read all the posts in the series here.

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