Sochi Olympics Travel Mishaps Tweeted By Journalists Stink of Mockery and Cold War Contempt

Nobody wanted to have the Winter Olympics in Russia this year, and it shows. The Sochi Olympic Games hasn't even had a chance to begin, but Western press arriving in Russia are already eye-rolling, eyebrow-raising, and generally expressing their contempt for the country. "It's Russia. What do you expect?" the refrain goes. Thanks to the country's prominent failures — that notorious anti-gay bill; President Vladimir Putin (who deserves his own category); allegations of corruption — it's now OK to mock the Olympic host country at every opportunity, as if all of Russia is represented by its intolerant president and Sochi's completely ridiculous mayor.

But is there a double standard at play here? Let's play the Slate game of "If It Happened There:" If the Games were held in Beijing this year, as they were six years ago, would we levy the same degree of mockery at the country because of its shoddy human-rights record? (FYI: we didn't then, and we probably wouldn't now, as ESPN's Brett Forrest points out.) What if the Olympics were happening in a developing nation where the majority of residents were people of color? Would it be OK for journalists to make fun of the country then?

Western journalists have taken to Twitter to mock everything from single beds for athletes and unsanitary water, to bizarre bathroom signs and framed photos of Putin. It may be completely accurate that Russia's tourist infrastructure isn't sufficiently prepared for the Olympics, but we're not talking about diligently researched critical articles. This is "boo, Russia" at its finest, with every jokey Tweet holding an undercurrent of "Dumb Russia; this wouldn't happen where we live."

No, we can't possibly condone Russia's hostility to the LGBT community, which is in flagrant disregard of the Olympic Charter. But Putin's shameful anti-gay law might have given us the reason we needed to mock Russia as a backwards, painfully behind country — something America has been doing since the Cold War era.

Russia is suffering from an image crisis, and it's not hard to see why. Last summer, when president Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning any behavior that could be considered "homosexual propaganda," there was international outcry to boycott, block, or move the planned Winter Olympics in Sochi.

But criticism wasn't just about the anti-gay law: Russia wasn't physically prepared to handle an event of this magnitude, critics argued. Nor was the country adequately equipped to deal with terrorist threats.

Western journalists have taken to Twitter to mock everything from single beds for athletes and unsanitary water, to bizarre bathroom signs and framed photos of Putin. It may be completely accurate that Russia's tourist infrastructure isn't sufficiently prepared for the Olympics, but we're not talking about diligently researched critical articles. This is "boo, Russia" at its finest, with every jokey Tweet holding an undercurrent of "Dumb Russia; this wouldn't happen where we live."

Putin is easy to make fun of: there's the topless photograph series, the movie-villain-esque stroking of snow leopards... and that's without going into his politics. Sochi's mayor is equally easy to mock — he recently went on record to say that there were no gay people in Sochi. ("And if there are, I don't bloody know them.") But Putin is not Russia. So why are we tarring the entire country with the same brush?

Historically, America has long seen Russia as backward — a politically turbulent, undeveloped land mass that during the 90s wanted to be just like America, and failed. Though diplomatic relations have ostentatiously warmed up after the fall of Communism, a palpable mistrust remains. We remain tenuous allies, and it's no secret that Obama and Putin don't get along.

When it comes to Olympic hosts like Beijing, America accepted the country as being, well, a different country — one with its own specific set of failings and successes, just like the United States. But when it comes to Russia, the United States (and, indeed, much of the Western world) can see only how it doesn't begin to compare to us. And for the record, no, Russia can't compare — especially when it comes to minority rights. (Oh, and space.) But does that mean we have to continue to make fun of it at every opportunity?

RELATED ON BUSTLE: For photos from the Sochi Olympics' Opening Ceremony, click into the gallery below.