Archiving Gold: Preserving the Sochi Olympics for the Future

Last week a Washington Post article made the rounds. It documented dozens of tweets from western journalists who arrived at the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia only to find hotels that weren’t finished, toilets that didn’t flush, and all other imaginable problems.

This was just the tip of the iceberg. NBC reporter Richard Engel claimed his phone and computers were hacked (though it turned out to be due to his own security lapse and not Sochi’s internet).  Ticket sales also were suffering due to “bombs, bureaucracy and big bucks,” according to one headline*. There were fears of stray dogs getting euthanized (fortunately, as this photo gallery documents, activists are saving some of these dogs.) Ironically, temperatures at the “Winter” Olympics are reaching 60° F. And none of those address the larger overarching issue of Russia’s anti-gay policies, which prompted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to call Sochi “a very bad choice” to host the Olympics. All of these issues have inspired a brand new twitter account “Sochi Problems,” which has 343,000 followers.

Some of these “problems” are not as serious as the media have reported (e.g. dogs and hacking). Still, they do linger over the Games. Thus, I think the Washington Post page on the Olympics should be archived, including all of its articles, videos, photos and other artifacts of the Games. If these pages are not saved, then future generations might only get a sense of these Games from the sporting results, instead of understanding the larger context of Sochi 2014. However if they are saved, hopefully Olympic organizers can learn from past mistakes. Also, archiving is especially important since most newspaper articles have short online shelf lives, which threatens the permanency of the record of these problems.

Unfortunately, archiving this section is not possible now, at least not by outsiders like the Internet Archive.  That’s because the Post’s robot.text disallows crawling. Of course the Post itself could archive their own materials for the public good. Even so, there still are some challenges to archiving the page. First, it is very much a living breathing site that is constantly updated, including new articles, photos, videos and results. This is a great tool, since it shows the progress of the Games over time. However, it’s an archiving challenge, since there are many elements that would be missed if the site is only haphazardly archived. Furthermore, some of the features on the site are complex media pieces with sound and audio. So that too is also hard to archive.

Fortunately, if the technical challenges can be over come, the Library of Congress would serve as a great repository for the archive. They already have a collection of Olympic historical accounts, so this would be a natural addition. Plus, as mentioned above, newspaper articles are removed from online quickly (e.g. the article I mentioned about low ticket sales), so saving them in the Library of Congress would preserve them forever, making our knowledge of the Games stronger (if not faster and higher, too.)

*This article has already been removed from washingtonpost.com. But the original AP version is still live.

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About Zach Klitzman

A History Grad student at American University

One response to “Archiving Gold: Preserving the Sochi Olympics for the Future”

  1. drdankerr says :

    You make a sophisticated case here that addresses the limits of current archiving efforts. It strikes me that a comprehensive effort to archive the games would have to be multi-lingual and go beyond the US focus. In hindsight, the games may have an even greater importance in understanding the rise of nationalist fervor that facilitated Putin’s efforts to take over Crimea. If that is the case, that could be an even darker angle to view this sporting event.

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