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Event draws reflection from MSU prof, alumni, student monitoring Games

February 20, 2014

Six years of hard work and preparation for 18 days of competition that now are coming to an end.

It was all worth it.

At least for the person who made sure there was snow instead of mush.

Joe VanderKelen, president of SMI Snowmakers — the company who made the snow for the Olympics — said he wouldn’t have changed anything.

“We are very proud and pleased,” VanderKelen, an MSU alumnus, said. “Planning and execution have all paid off. The process went as we planned and there was plenty of snow for the Games.”

Welcoming VanderKelen’s team and the world with “open arms and big smiles,” he said he had a fantastic time. The customers also were very pleased and satisfied with how the Winter Olympics turned out.

“We are very proud to have been involved in a small way with the success of the Olympics. The spirit of the Olympics really does help unite the world,” he said.

Uniting the world is one of the main reasons the Olympics exist. Another is to use the mega event to make the host city a better place for its original residents, said MSU professor Mark Wilson.

Wilson is a professor for the MOOC — the massive open online course — “Mega Events: Inside the Winter Olympics.”

“Russia achieved what it wanted, which was positive world press, while people seemed to lose focus of the crucial issues,” he said.

The image the world saw of Russia was highly managed and that is what the public will remember, Wilson said, but the class is teaching students from all over the world to look deeper than just the sports.

“They have to be mindful of the legacy — what’s left afterward,” Wilson said. “What will be left for the city? Will it be useful? Will people in Sochi have better lives?”

However, building about 43,000 hotel rooms, an airport, a rail system and a ski resort might not be useful for the Russians who live there, according to Wilson.

Sochi is a warm city — the warmest to ever host the Winter Olympics, and Wilson said climate change and environmental problems will grow.

What Wilson said Russia needed was the positive press, but that it started out rough.

“As for the infrastructure, Sochi provided the resources needed for it all to work,” Wilson said.

Andrew Roth, a senior and former president of MSU’s Russian Club, said the problems of infrastructure were already embarrassing — including sinks that didn’t work, bathroom problems and unfinished hotels.

While Roth’s hope going into the Olympics was to showcase to the world that Russia needs help, Wilson said that the public is preoccupied on what the athletes achieved.

“In the class, we teach them to appreciate the athletes, but to look at what’s behind it. The country wants to cover up what happens there besides that,” Wilson said.

Regardless of what the venues will be used for, Roth said the Olympics hopefully will make Russia prosper in the future and teach people what’s really going on there.

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The Closing Ceremonies will happen at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, and from then on, the public will see what the Olympics brought to Russia during 18 days and beyond.


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