Devang Desai

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Sochi After Dark: The End

Spectators look at the Olympic flame during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

It happens every time.

The Olympics end abruptly, without the fanfare that accompanied the opening ceremonies. People go back to their lives, the athletes go home and the journalists finally get to leave the Sochi equivalent of the Hanoi Hilton.

So where do we stand? For all of the hand wringing and jokes made at the expense of the Olympic village, these games went smoothly. It seems the Olympics usually do, regardless of how bad things seem.

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Ukraine's relay team celebrate after crossing finish line to win women's biathlon 4x6 km relay at Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games

The Olympics are a time for celebration. The best athletes in the world get together to show us what years of dedication can result in.

Every four years we’re reminded that sports like skeleton require a special mindset (read: crazy). We’re reminded that the few things are as beautiful to see as a well executed triple cork off a big jump.

As the 2014 Olympics draw to a close it’s time to look back on the best moments from the past two weeks. Not the best performances, but the moments that left you with smile on your face, a lump in your throat or tears in your eyes.

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Olympics: Short Track Speed Skating-Men's 500m

The Olympics in Sochi are almost done. In a few days the winter vanguard of the International Olympic Committee will set their sights on Pyeongchang.

It says here the accommodations will be better. The food will be better. Just about everything you can imagine, services, the officials; they’ll be better in South Korea.

I say this with a definite bias. I haven’t spent time in Russia, though it’s definitely on the list of places I would like to go.

I have, however, spent quite a bit of time in South Korea.

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Canada’s women completed a stunning comeback to shock the United States in overtime on Thursday. Women’s ice hockey gold is Canada’s for the fourth time.

The States won’t have to wait long for revenge. The men take center stage on Friday, with a berth in the hockey final on the line.

Canada and the United States have a long history that has intertwined with the sporting world on numerous occasions.

Their ‘off the field’ relations have been mixed. For the most part, the two nations behave cordially. Trade deals, common enemies and shared border interests mean there isn’t much time for histrionics.

There have been moments of intrigue, however. Moments when long-term friends have major disagreements. Here are the top 5 ‘what’s beef’ Canada-U.S feuds.

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Canada's Poulin shakes hands with Team USA's Lamoureux after Canada won the women's ice hockey gold medal game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games

Listen, there’s a lot to detest about the Olympics, and we’ve covered most of those topics over the last two weeks.

Corrupt institutions, archaic rules, terrible judging, jerks, political bullshit–the list goes on.

But there’s a reason we’re captivated by them. The spectacle they afford, behind the veil of nationalist overtones we secretly embrace, is unique.

Embracing strangers on the street is normally grounds for senseless violence, but not when the Olympics are on. It’s cool.

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Spectators watch a screen showing the men's quarter-finals ice hockey game between Russia and Finland at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games

Is hosting the Olympics a waste if your country fails in the one event everyone cares about?

If the fans filtering out of the Bolshoy Ice Dome following Russia’s 3-1 loss to Finland in men’s hockey were any indication, the answer is yes.

The red machine never got it going in Sochi, struggling to score goals with a lineup stocked with all-world talent up front. Unfortunately luck wasn’t on their side, as indicated by the team’s low shooting percentage in games against the United States, Slovakia, and of course, the Finns.

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Image via the Associated Press

Image via the Associated Press

As the games continue in Sochi it would be hard to blame one group of athletes from being distracted by more important matters.

Kiev is burning. The Ukrainian capital is under siege, as police and anti-government protesters have engaged in violent confrontations following a three month dispute.

Warning: The following video is graphic in nature.

Chances of a peaceful settlement went from possible to unlikely on Tuesday. Government Security Services issued an ultimatum to the thousands of protesters gathered in Independence Square.

The deadline passed with everyone remaining in place. They weren’t leaving. The bloodshed began soon after. At least 18 people have died after police stormed the camp known as ‘The Maidan’ by its locals.

“We will not go anywhere from here,” said opposition leader and former Boxing World Heavyweight champion Vitaly Klitschko. ”This is an island of freedom and we will defend it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Olympics: Figure Skating-Ice Dance Free Dance

The following piece is not based in fact. It is a loose retelling of what likely happened. The author has no biases, except for the truth. 

Meryl Davis and Charlie White did what they were supposed to do on Monday, capturing  gold in the ice dance. The Americans were the favorites, but Canada’s Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir gave them quite the test.

Unfortunately, Virtue and Moir were unaware of the circumstances. They weren’t going to win. The results were preordained 40 years ago, when a cabal of the world’s most powerful made their choice.

Davis and White were winning gold in Sochi. The skaters were pawns, of course. This wasn’t about them. The men that filled the executive boardroom of Genva’s Hotel Savoy in 1974 didn’t know the names of the people they would use as tools for world domination. Davis and White could have been Smith and Johnson, it didn’t matter. Sochi After Dark presents the oral history of ‘The Fix.’

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Olympics: Men's Super G Team USA Press Conference

The Olympics are good. Everyone is good, and moral, and benign. Nobody wants to ruffle any feathers, but the truth is important. Who do you hate, why do you hate them and what can be done about said problem is a conversation that’s been had between you and a few friends.

In Sochi it’s assumed this conversation has been had numerous times. My rival keeps beating me, I hate my teammates and why is my floor burning are questions that have been directed at the ceilings of Russia’s most dubious Holiday Inn’s.

Because we’re good people, Sochi After Dark would like to present the unfiltered version. There are Olympians that are hard to root for. Be it their personality, their brand or even sometimes their face, some athletes are hard to like. Here is the list.

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Ashley Wagner of the United States celebrates in the "kiss and cry" area during the Team Ladies Short Program at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

America doesn’t make it easy sometimes. The world’s policemen don’t have the greatest track record in recent years (that’s being generous). Their politics have created platforms for terrible, terrible people. Their biggest and most influential corporations eschew decency and common courtesy when dollars are at stake.

These problems certainly aren’t unique to the United States, but when you’re the biggest show around it’s hard to look away.

They are the circus we can’t help but watch, and in turn, loathe. Cheering against America at major sporting events has an odd way of uniting the world. When Landon Donovan stunned Algeria at the 2010 World Cup, New York, Chicago and cities around the heartland went nuts. The rest of us felt like our favorite restaurant in Algiers had just closed down.

Brash, arrogant and really good: that’s the American formula, and it’s worked pretty well for them in a number of sports, but that doesn’t mean the world has to like it.

Until now.

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