UB international community provides perspective on Winter Olympics

On February 18, 2014

  • Anish Paul Antony, a desk worker in the International Student Service Stop (ISSS), is concerned about the cost of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Chad Cooper, The Spectrum

For many Americans, the Olympics are a source of national pride. Elite athletes go and compete, and those at home watch from their TV sets. Every two years, there's a patriotic swelling of pride.

UB's international student population - which makes up slightly more than 17 percent of enrolled students - is not just rooting for the American teams. As a diverse community, UB offers a view into how the world celebrates the two-week period. Students' perspectives are wide ranging - some are unfamiliar with the Winter Olympics events, several believe U.S. media covers the Games excessively and others are concerned with the Games' social and economic implications.

Diyanna Richard, a senior biological sciences major, said the media coverage is different in the United States from in her home of Malaysia.

"In Malaysia, [the Olympics] might come up once or twice in the news," Richard said. "[The U.S. media] have it on at specific times."

She's not the only international student who believes the media coverage is excessive.

"I don't like watching [the Olympics] on NBC," said Kritika Agarwal, an Indian Ph.D. candidate in American Studies.

Agarwal finds it especially strange that the Games are broadcast in primetime. Richard, however, said the coverage is sufficient. She likes the amount of time American television stations devote to the Olympics.

Senior mathematics major Hui Kee Lee is from Malaysia and moved to Singapore when she was 15 before coming to UB. When her friends gathered around the TV to watch the Games, she described the environment as "hip."

Many in UB's international community seem concerned with the social and economic costs of the Olympics. In particular, some take issue with Russia's treatment of the LGBT community.

"The only thing that bothers me is the anti-gay law," Richard said. "I don't like how [Russian President Vladimir Putin] doesn't want to address it."

Agarwal also finds the issue disconcerting.

"It's upsetting that athletes cannot express their political view," Agarwal said. "And that solidarity behind the LGBT movement can even result in a medal ban."

Anish Paul Antony, a desk worker in the International Student Service Stop (ISSS), expressed concern about the Games' expenses. She questioned if the 2012 Summer Olympics in London were worth the cost. 

The Sochi Games are expected to be the most expensive in the modern history of the Olympics, at roughly five times the cost of London's 2012 games, which cost slightly over $10 billion. The total cost of the games in Sochi is expected to be around $51 billion, according to USA Today.

The Games' closing ceremony will take place Feb. 23.


email: sports@ubspectrum.com

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