Can These Games Be Saved?

Feb 6 2014, 4:31pm CST | by

Can These Games Be Saved?

Throughout the week, reporters at the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia have taken to Twitter to showcase their less-than-cozy hotel accommodations with great hilarity.

From broken curtains and pedestrian traps to tap water that looks like it was siphoned from a Tough Mudder event, Sochi hasn’t exactly put its best foot forward in the days leading up to the opening ceremonies. Even hotel bathrooms have made headlines for their strange design choices and unusual conditions of use.

Sochi is suffering from a serious reputation crisis before the Games have even begun. But why should Russia care about a handful of bizarre photos on Twitter, as long as it can deliver a seamless Winter Games?

It all comes down to image.

In the court of public opinion, Sochi has gotten a spanking from all corners. The Games were already clouded by issues such as corruption and gross overspending (to the tune of $50 billion), which raised eyebrows and soured the public’s initial impression. The slew of recent Twitter photos only reinforces the belief that Sochi isn’t ready to host the Winter Olympic Games. If multi-billion dollar hotel projects were handed out to Putin cronies with virtually no experience in construction, what would it look like? Come to think of it, it would probably look a lot like this. What happens now if something actually goes awry during the Games themselves?

You’re probably already seeing the pattern emerge: negative publicity has a tendency to snowball. Before the Games, it was allegations of corruption.  We’re at the pre-game show and it’s filthy drinking water and toilets that can’t accommodate toilet paper.  It’s a slopestyle course that needed massive modification after one athlete broke his collarbone and other athletes said, uhhhh. It’ll now take the equivalent of landing multiple triple lutzes for viewers to think of this as a well-organized, world-class event. That’s with good reason: what’s happening just continues to legitimize the arguments of critics and detractors. Nothing else can go wrong.

What’s the takeaway from the early struggles of the Sochi Winter Games? When it comes to public perception, first impressions are everything. They shape the way how people see you, your business, your achievements, your failures, etc. First impressions can spark a serious buzz based on just a few images shared socially, or it can turn a flurry of grumblings into an avalanche of criticism. They set the tone for a narrative that can be very difficult to change mid-course.

How have you seen first impressions either help or hurt public perception?  Can these Games be saved?

Source: Forbes Business


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