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Posts Tagged ‘drinking’

The Dry Olympics

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

Russia’s most famous export is vodka, but Olympics attendees won’t be sipping vodka tonics, or any other alcoholic beverages, at this year’s games. A new federal law prohibits the sale of alcohol inside sports stadiums and arenas. Additionally, a local ordinance bans alcohol sales within 50 meters of certain sports venues. Why the strict drinking policy? Some see it as a way to limit unruliness, a lingering and unpleasant memory of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Others cite the Kremlin’s recent efforts as a way to disengage Russians from their alcohol attachment. Whatever the reason, fans are not happy. ‘Ice hockey and beer, curling and beer, these things tend to go hand in hand’ – such is the sentiment of many Olympics travelers and reporters who just want a drink.

If you do want a beer, it’s tough to find. One restaurant in Sochi’s Olympic Park has a full bar, and there are two Coca-Cola food and beverage stands that sell beer. All the other tents are selling a special non-alcoholic Baltika brew. The best bet is for fans to trek up the mountains and watch the skiing and snowboarding events. The outdoor venues are not restricted to alcohol ordinances, and the fans are ‘drinking in’ the freedom.

Even Utah, the host of the 2002 Salt Lake City Games and the state with the most restrictive alcohol laws in the United States, allowed alcohol in certain public spaces where it was normally prohibited. But it doesn’t make sense for Russia to be hosting the ‘sober Olympics.’ In fact, due to societal lack of healthy living habits in the country, the average lifespan of a Russian man is 64 years old. Russia ranks fourth in the world in total alcohol consumption per capita, prompting the government to declare a war on alcoholism in 2009. As part of the Kremlin’s efforts, alcohol taxes have rose, sale restrictions have increased, and alcohol advertising has been banned.

Additionally, alcohol isn’t the only restriction at the Sochi Games. There are no fried foods, no hot dogs, and no potato chips. Time writes that the Sochi train station has an intercom message that tells travelers upon their arrival: ‘Sochi is a smoke-free city. Please refrain from smoking in public places and Olympic venues.’ Although the Olympics are all about health and it is fitting for a host country to promote the mission of the Games, the Kremlin seems to be depriving Olympics fans for the sake of furthering their political aims. This is Russia, so such a move is hardly surprising. But the Kremlin is still no match for a little (North) America ingenuity.