Category Archives: Sports

Johnny Weir: “I Brought the Gay” to Sochi

Why do they save the best interviews for the late-night Olympics coverage? Just after 1am Bob Costas invited diva duo Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski — former U.S. Olympic figure skaters who have since put the color back in color commentary — to join him for a little dish session. The topics:

  • Whether the scores for the women’s free skate, the final medal event in figure skating, were fair. Lipinski said she would have scored the night exactly the same way, awarding gold to Russian 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova over the defending Olympic champion, South Korea’s Yuna Kim, because, simply put, Sotnikova brought it. Seven triple jumps should beat six any day, Lipinski said — and she should know. Sixteen years ago yesterday, Tara became the youngest woman (at age 15) to win Olympic gold in figure skating, thanks largely to her — count ’em — seven triple loops and Salchows. And lest you forget that anniversary, Lipinski brought out the gold top and matching his/hers gold-leaf Athenian headbands. Because yes.weir_lipinski_gold
  • America’s chances in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. Weir lavished praise on 15-year-old Polina Edmunds, who made her Olympic debut in Sochi, though she “still needs to learn the artistic side.” Lipinski called 18-year-old Gracie Gold “the future” of the U.S. squad. As for 22-year-old Ashley Wagner’s proclamation that she wanted to be back in four years? Quote Lipinski: “That’s…interesting.” Yow. A retired figure skater just said you’re old, Wagner. Might as well learn mahjong and book that cruise to Alaska.
  • If Johnny Weir was harassed in Russia for being gay. Old smoothie Costas posed a more “general” question, though: “Johnny … how are you?” Thankfully, Weir spoke as candidly as he did during the Olympic broadcast. (Johnny on Czech Republic’s Elizaveta Ukolova: “She’s 15 years old, but she … skates like she’s 15.”) Despite Russia’s recent ban on pro-gay “propaganda,” Weir said he was treated “fantastically” in Sochi. “And I brought the gay.” Did you?
    Courtesy Johnny Weir/Instagram.
    Courtesy Johnny Weir/Instagram.

    Oh wait. Yes. Yes, you did. The diva duo said they received a lot of love from locals when they went out around the city of Sochi. Weir’s only anecdote to suggest that things weren’t all glitter and Judy Garland came from his trip to the public restroom. (Hold on…it’s not that kind of late-night coverage.) Russian men would do a double take when they entered the bathroom and saw Weir “and his weave” standing at a urinal, he said; they would go back to check the door to make sure they were in the right place. Not so shocking — that could happen in any small town. What’s interesting is that Weir has been mum on the issue of Russia’s anti-gay law until last night (as quiet as you can be in a hot pink blazer). His actions spoke louder than his words, and for some, that wasn’t enough; CNN host Don Lemon called Weir’s Olympic moment nothing but “a gay minstrel show.” But what responsibility did Weir have? Did he have to protest the Olympics on behalf of every member of the worldwide LGBT community? He had a job to do, he did it well, and while he was at it, he issued an F you to Vladimir Putin in the form of leather pants and sequins. I’d almost call it…subtle.


Why a Russian Beach Town Is Hosting the Winter Olympics

The subtropical resort city of Sochi, Russia lies on the eastern shore of the Black Sea. Palm trees line the streets, and the concept of a polar vortex is foreign to its residents—the average February temperature is a balmy upper-40s Fahrenheit.

An hour’s drive from the city is Krasnaya Polyana, an alpine village in the Western Caucasus mountains that will host the ski events for the 2014 Winter Olympics (Feb 7–23). The district of Adler, 17 miles south of Sochi, is home to the Olympic Park and all its newly constructed venues: the Iceberg figure skating palace; the Ice Cube curling center; Adler Arena, with its oval speed-skating track, designed to look like an iceberg. It’s cute, no?

Sochi has been a Russian vacation destination since the days of Tsar Nicholas II, though its latest round of guests might be even more discerning. Much has been said about what a mess Sochi’s Winter Games already are—and the Opening Ceremony doesn’t even happen until tomorrow.

Foreign journalists have flooded Twitter with photos of construction mishaps, like very social toilet arrangements and hotels without running water (or water that looks like apple cider and is “dangerous for your face”). It gets better. There’s even a Twitter account just for @SochiProblems, with 77,800 followers and counting. The latest issues? Reporters being locked inside their rooms, cameras in the bathrooms, and laptops and phones being hacked.

And that’s on top of, you know, threats of terrorism, allegations of corruption, and state-sponsored homophobia.

So…sounds like a natural fit for the Olympics. How did this Russian beach resort land the bid for the latest Winter Games? Technically, the country’s National Olympic Committee has to select a city to put forth to the International Olympic Committee, which then does a four-day inspection of each competing bid. And Sochi has a few things going for it: proximity to the Caucasus, history as a tourist destination. Maria Sharapova lived there.

Reporter Brett Forrest digs deeper in two separate but enlightening articles about the Sochi Olympics that I thought were worth sharing.

Read This: “Putin’s Run for Gold” (Vanity Fair)
Read This Too: “Putin’s Party” (National Geographic)

A little less hysteria to close: Lest we forget, people were calling the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, B.C. — which has a similar, temperate mountain-to-sea climate — a straight-up calamity. There was a death on opening day and bone-dry ski slopes, but Vancouver managed to recover. Here’s hoping we skate through Sochi without any real damage.