Monday, February 17, 2014

Bieganski and the Sochi Olympics

Al Bello Getty Images Source
Is Bieganski making an appearance in American press coverage of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia?

Americans often stereotype Eastern Europeans as brutes, ignorant, strong, low class, violent, drunken, and anti-Semitic. Is that Bieganski image popping up in American press coverage of the Olympics in Sochi, Russia?

I can't answer that because I lack the context. I don't watch the Olympics so I can't compare this Olympics coverage to coverage of the Olympics in China or England or America or anyplace else.

I do hear a lot of coverage focused on Bieganski-like qualities in Russia. This Olympics, we are told, is inept and brutish in a way that previous Olympics were not. I don't know if that is true.

The Washington Post ran an article talking about yellow tap water and a lack of toilet paper. I live in America and my tap water is often yellow. American reporters complain that at the Sochi Olympics visitors receive warnings that the tap water is dangerous. I live in America and our local water commission regularly sends us notices in English, Spanish, and Arabic telling us that our water contains unacceptable levels of lead, cryptosporidium, and fecal matter.

Russian journalist Masha Gessen appeared on Gabfest radio to discuss American coverage of the Sochi Olympics. She says that this is the real Russia, "the Russia that the world should see" that in Russia "everyday existence is demeaning and humiliating."

Other Russians, who are normally critical of Putin, have become more nationalistic in the face of American criticism of their country. Julie Ioffe wrote about that response in the New Republic here.

You can read the Washington Post article about reporters whining about yellow tap water in Sochi here.

Magdalena Pasnikowska sent in this link with fake Sochi pictures.


  1. The media coverage of the Sochi Olympics is disgusting. It's nothing but criticism, including criticism of what one hotel offered for breakfast - shock horror, they had vegetables on the menu! - of the water, of the hotel infrastructure, fake pictures were posted all over the internet (as in, the pictures had not been taken in Sochi and had been around much earlier), additionally, pictures from Sochi construction sites were widely circulated as showing the current conditions at the Olympic Village... The opening ceremony was ridiculed for no apparent reason. Information about the actual sporting events is pretty much kept to a minimum, at least in the UK media. I am afraid to say the Polish media fully participated in this shameful propaganda until Poland won 4 gold medals and now it's all good.

  2. Such prejudices against Slavs are nothing new. For instance, when the Soviet Union exploded its first atomic bomb in 1949, years ahead of expectation, President Truman reportedly asked how "those Asiatics" could have built something so sophisticated so quickly.

  3. Here in the UK there are usually some shock horror stories about how the host country is going to make a complete mess of the Games and nothing is going to be ready. I think they said the same things when we were hosting them.

    So I hadn't seen Bieganski in this. Though it could be that the media coverage in the USA has been angled that way.

    Interesting and depressing that you note, Magdalena, how Poland's media was happy to join in the chorus, until Poland got 4 golds. We need to remember the Golden Rule - to treat others as we would want to be treated. This campaign of vilification is giving us an excellent upclose and personal lesson in how not to treat others, if we want to take it.

    The Games seem to be going well, as far as I can see. And we are enjoying them. Though I do mutter every so often, as I see some dazzling young athlete hurtling backwards down a ski jump while doing somersaults and making cup of coffee at the same time: "Just wait till you get arthritis, try ski-jumping then matey!"


Bieganski the Blog exists to further explore the themes of the book Bieganski the Brute Polak Stereotype, Its Role in Polish-Jewish Relations and American Popular Culture.
These themes include the false and damaging stereotype of Poles as brutes who are uniquely hateful and responsible for atrocity, and this stereotype's use in distorting WW II history and all accounts of atrocity.
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